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A biochemistry major and member of the College’s NCAA Division I track and field team, he performed an independent study with biology and chemistry faculty

By Courtney Morin ’10

Mark Brown ’10 (Wilmington, Del.) has published research in the international scientific journal The Veliger.

A biochemistry major and member of the College’s NCAA Division I track and field team, Brown performed an independent study under the guidance of Joseph Sherma, Larkin Professor Emeritus of Chemistry; Bernard Fried, Kreider Professor Emeritus of Biology; and Michael Chejlava, the chemistry department’s instrumentation specialist.The research aimed to develop a simple and relatively non-invasive procedure to detect preventable parasitic diseases that are common in third-world countries.

The procedure required that “suitable biomarkers,” or chemical compounds that can be used to diagnose these diseases, be determined. “A suitable biomarker is one that deviates significantly in concentration from normal levels when these diseases are contracted,” says Brown.

In addition to determining biomarkers for the diseases, a method to measure significant changes in the concentration of these biomarkers in humans was needed. Brown examined carboxylic acids as biomarkers for these parasitic diseases to determine if high performance liquid chromatography (a method used to separate, identify, and quantify chemical compounds) was sensitive to concentration changes in carboxylic acids.

“In my research, we used the Pennsylvania and Colorado strains of the snail species Helisoma trivolvis as a model and subjected them to ‘estivation,’ a condition where the snails were excessively dried over a period of several days. Our hypothesis was that the concentrations of certain carboxylic acids of the estivated snails would change when compared to snails under normal conditions as measured using HPLC,” Brown says.

Brown measured the concentration of carboxylic acids in the snails after performing estivation and dissected each snail’s digestive gland-gonad complex to measure the concentrations using HPLC. His results confirm that HPLC may be a fittingly responsive method for enumerating the concentrations of biomarkers.

After graduating from Lafayette, Brown hopes to pursue a graduate degree in biochemistry or organic chemistry and this project greatly contributed to these goals. “Because graduate school is research-oriented, I needed research experience to be certain this was the right path for me,” he says.

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