Westborough High School
Westborough, MA

Matt Tegtmeyer and Hilena Gebre
Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are two prevalent psychiatric disorders that are not well understood. Over recent years, scientists have started to use a special type of cell, called induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC), to study these disorders. iPSCs are somatic-derived cells that are turned into a pluripotent state in which they can differentiate into any cell in our body. This allows scientists to study the differentiation of patient-derived cells to better understand the development of disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. To gain a better understanding of the different biological processes that might be affected in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Maria's lab studied the changes in gene expression that occur in patient derived neurons and astrocytes as a result of treatment with common medication used to treat the disorders. Their findings suggested there were significant changes in the expression of genes involved in the lipid synthesis. This summer, Maria and her partner Eman were involved in validating the results from this past study. She differentiated iPSCs into astrocytes, administered different drug treatments and performed qPCR and Western Blot analysis to confirm changes at the transcript and protein level as a response to treatment. Maria’s work revealed 10 out of the 11 tested lipid synthesis genes were affected by the different treatments. Her findings this summer will help researchers understand how different psychiatric disorders develop. Additionally, the work could help with the development of different treatments that target cellular pathways altered in these disorders to better the lives of those affected by them. Maria’s work at the Broad had a huge impact in her career path. “My lab, which focused on neuroscience, really showed me a new side of neuroscience that I hadn't seen before. Now, after finishing this program, I am considering neuroscience as my major in college.” The most important thing Maria takes away from being part of BSSP are the relationships and connections she was able to build with her cohort and mentors. “This program was an amazing opportunity and really gave me the experience that I would have never dreamed of!”