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Scientific studies conducted by Drs. Arora, Ogunjirin, featured in journal publications

January 4, 2016
By Nathan Ramsier
Arrow Buff

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Dr. Gaurav Arora co-authors article appearing in Helicobacter

Dr. Gaurav Arora, assistant professor of biology, co-authored an article which was published in the journal, Helicobacter.

Appearing in the online version of Helicobacter on November 27, 2015, Arora’s article will be included in the journal’s next print publication. The article is co-authored by Alexandra Kyrillos, Bradley Murray, and Dr. Anne G. Rosenwald, and is titled “The Presence of Phage Orthologous Genes in Helicobacter pylori Correlates with the Presence of the Virulence Factors CagA and VacA.”

Helicobacter pylori (or H.pylori) is a bacterium that is found in nearly everyone’s stomach; certain strains are known to cause stomach ulcers and gastric cancer. Arora’s research focuses on the genes of these harmful strains of bacteria. Typically, genes are passed down from one generation to the next in a process known as vertical gene transfer, but it is also possible for genes to be passed from one organism to another in what is called horizontal gene transfer.

Focusing on this horizontal gene transfer, Arora and his colleagues studied 335 strains of H.pylori and identified 125, which may have acquired genes in this manner. These genes were transferred from viruses which infect bacteria known as phages. The research showed a correlation between the H pylori strains which exhibit horizontally transferred genes and the strains, which can cause disease.

The published findings represent the sixth time Arora’s work has appeared in a scientific journal.  Arora received his Ph.D. in biology from Georgia Institute of Technology, where his doctoral thesis focused on understanding the evolutionary differences between human and chimpanzee apoptotic function. He conducted his post-doctoral fellowship at Georgetown University in the lab of Dr. Anne Rosenwald, his mentor and a co-author of the Helicobacter article.

The study was funded by a National Science Foundation grant, titled the Genome Solver, of which Rosenwald and Arora are co-principal investigators.

“The goal of [the Genome Solver] is to recruit undergraduate researchers at universities and give them first hand research experience before they graduate,” explained Arora. He views this as beneficial for both the students and their advisors and pointed out that two of the authors of the H.pylori paper were actually undergraduate researchers at Georgetown University. “I am hoping I can replicate this model at Gallaudet University and give undergraduate students research experience so that they can use it once they graduate,” Arora said.

At Gallaudet, Arora teaches Introduction to Biology and hopes to recruit undergraduate students to analyze data in the field of bioinformatics. This branch of biology uses computer tools to analyze genomes (complete DNA/RNA sets of various organisms), and all of the work done on the H.pylori project was complete using bioinformatics tools. The advent of technology has resulted in a vast amount of data which exceeds the number of qualified experts to analyze it.

“Bioinformatics has fast become an interdisciplinary field and has attracted many students from different universities,” said Arora. “As more DNA or genomic data becomes available, the need for bioinformatics experts will increase.”

Dr. Adebowale E. Ogunjirin’s research highlighted in Neurochemical Research article

Dr. Adebowale E. Ogunjirin, assistant professor of biology, co-authored an article which appeared in the October 2015 issue of Neurochemical Research. The article, entitled “Competition, Selectivity and Efficacy of Analogs of A-84543 for Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors with Repositioning of Pyridine Nitrogen,” represents Ogunjirin’s second published work, which shows possibilities that may lead to developing medications to improve treatment for various neurological disorders.

In explaining his research, Ogunjirin offered an analogy of a master key which can open several locks. In the same way, neurotransmitters in the body can activate multiple receptor sites. Yet, unlike a master key where specific locks are chosen, neurotransmitters indiscriminately target their sites.

When the quantity of neurotransmitters is off balance due to diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, drugs may be introduced in an attempt to restore the balance. Creating a drug that will behave like a neurotransmitter (master key) but only at specific sites (chosen locks) is in essence the quest of Ogunjirin.

“My research objectives focus on synthesizing and testing small organic molecules that will behave like a natural neurotransmitter but binding and activating only a specific part of the body where it is needed,” said Ogunjirin. “This way, the drug is more effective in treating the disease with minimum side effects.”

In 1999, Ogunjirin earned his M.Sc. in pharmaceutics in Nigeria and was employed by the Pharmacists’ Council of Nigeria as an inspector of drug manufacturing companies until 2005. The following year, he began teaching biology at Gallaudet and received his Ph.D. in pharmacology from nearby Howard University in 2011.

Today, Ogunjirin teaches introductory biology at Gallaudet and hopes to continue his work on campus with student assistance. “My research will further benefit our students at Gallaudet University who are interested in gaining ample experience in the health field and provide additional diversity of discipline for our students,” he said.

Ogunjirin pointed out that if novel compounds are discovered, scientific knowledge would be advanced. This could potentially have an immediate impact on Gallaudet in both increased recognition and funding.

4 January 2016
By Nathan Ramsier

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Nathan Ramsier

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