Emily Hardin

Mentor: Dr. Ann Progulske-Fox
College of Dentistry
 
"The University of Florida has a wealth of opportunities for undergraduate research, and I wanted to explore a field other than biochemistry and nutrition. Last year, I was told about Dr. Ann Progulske-Fox's research on oral pathogens and their role in cardiovascular disease and became interested in the subject. Working as an undergraduate researcher in her lab, I have gained more independent, hands-on experience than I could have imagined. In the future, I hope to become a dentist and continue researching oral pathology."

Major

Biochemistry

Minor

Nutrition

Research Interests

  • Oral Pathogens
  • Microbiology
  • Cardiovascular Disease

Academic Awards

  • Dean's List
  • UF Honors Program
  • UF University Scholars Program

Volunteer

  • UF College of Dentistry Student Clinic Volunteer

Hobbies and Interests

  • Travel
  • Cooking
  • Family and Friends
  • Music

Research Description

Intercellular trafficking of Streptococcus mutans from Endothelial to Smooth Muscle Cells
Bacterial colonization of the endothelium provides access to smooth muscle cells residing in the intima layer. In addition, the progression of atherosclerotic lesions can result in the deeper smooth muscle cells traveling to the site of infection as a response to a damaging event, potentially increasing their susceptibility of infection themselves. The mode of entry into smooth muscle cells is important in understanding S. mutans pathogenesis in cardiovascular disease. The damage also causes increased expression of adhesion molecules where bacteria can bind and invade the endothelial cell layer, resulting in the expression of inflammatory molecules and potential necrosis of the endothelial cells. My hypothesis is that S. mutans within endothelial cells will be able to be transmitted directly and indirectly to smooth muscle cells. Investigating the intercellular spreading of S. mutans in cardiovascular cells may provide insight for a model to be tested in animals.