Student NameMeagan Hoppe
Faculty Mentor NameSara Burke
CollegeCollege of Medicine
MajorMicrobiology and Cell Science
MinorHealth Disparities in Society
Research InterestsNeuroscience, Memory, Cognition, Aging, Immunology, Genetics
OrganizationsAlpha Epsilon Delta, Neuromedicine Interdisciplinary Clinical and Academic Program (NICAP) Undergraduate Intern at UFHealth
Hobbies and InterestsSoccer, Hiking, Traveling, Cooking

Research Project

Effects of a ketogenic diet on prefrontal cortical and hippocampal synapse-related proteins

With age comes declining neural and cognitive function, which negatively impacts quality of life. To investigate our central hypothesis, we will examine how a ketogenic diet can change synapse-related protein composition within the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus (HPC) in young and aged rats relative to rats on a calorie- and micronutrient-matched control diet. These rats have previously been behaviorally characterized, and brain tissue was extracted and frozen. We will utilize this tissue (n ≥ 9 rats per group) to characterize markers of synaptic integrity and density. PFC and HPC tissue will be homogenized individually, and Western Blotting will be used to assess levels of synaptic proteins, such as synaptophysin which can be used as an estimate for synaptic density. Furthermore, we will quantify excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors within these regions as an indirect marker of neuronal signaling activity shifts with age and or dietary intervention. Acquiring further knowledge on the specific changes in synaptic integrity that are correlated to cognitive decline and aging, and how this decline could be reversed with dietary intervention holds promise for improving the quality of life of millions that are facing age-related cognitive decline or early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.