Jonathan Du Rand '22

Jonathan Du Rand

Major: Integrative Neuroscience
Bio: Jonathan Du Rand was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. He moved to New York to pursue a degree in Integrative Neuroscience at Fordham University where he began to engage in academic research. Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, he hopes to pursue an MD-PhD and specialize in psychiatry.

Title of Research: Understanding the Impact of NPC1 on Zebrafish Neuron Development
Mentor: Dr. Alma Rodenas-Ruano
Abstract: Niemann Pick Disease Type C1 is a developmental disease that results in an overaccumulation of cholesterol in animal cells. The disease is caused by mutations in the npc1 gene. It causes both physical and cognitive symptoms and can cause life-threatening complications. The aim of this research project was to examine the impact of several npc1 gene mutations on neurons, specifically in a zebrafish model, in order to better understand the impact of the disease on the central nervous system. Our hypothesis was that npc1 mutations will result in cholesterol accumulation in neurons which will affect neuronal function. Genotyping procedures were conducted in order to identify wild-type, heterozygous, and mutant zebrafish. The zebrafish brains were then micro-dissected and stained for cholesterol using filipin staining. Preliminary data from filipin staining on zebrafish with npc1 gene mutations showed increased cholesterol accumulation when compared to wild-type zebrafish. Survival rate was low for homozygous mutants, while heterozygous mutants exhibited a higher survival rate and less severe symptoms. Future directions for this project include further imaging as well as the introduction of electrophysiological techniques to measure potential deficits in neuronal function as a result of the observed increased cholesterol levels.