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Summer with a Pinckney Scholar: Kayla Hasty

September 26, 2018 by CCF

Unless you’re a first-time reader, you are likely familiar with our Reverend Pinckney Scholars Program—created in response to the Mother Emanuel Church shooting. This program aims to increase access to higher education for African American students in Beaufort, Charleston, and Jasper counties. Now in its third year and 30 scholars strong, this program’s inspiring students continue to excel in the classroom and contribute meaningfully to their communities. Fueled by ambition and the legacy of this program’s namesake, their commitment to excellence does not stop when the school year ends. This back-to-school blog series will allow readers a first-person glimpse into the exciting summer work and travels of our Pinckney Scholars.

-Caroline Rakar, Program Officer

This summer, I had the opportunity to work in a cancer research lab through 1890 Research and Extension Program at South Carolina State University where my Principle Investigator and Co-Principle Investigator were Dr. Ashley Knowell and Dr. Shanora Brown. For ten weeks, I was “Analyzing the Role of High Pro-Inflammatory Diets and Childhood Obesity in the Risk of Adult Carcinogenesis in South Carolinian Children.” The goal of this project was to analyze the expression levels of obesity markers in South Carolinian children from varying degrees of rurality to determine if obesity and/or high-fat pro-inflammatory diets contribute to increased levels of pro-inflammatory markers raising the possibility that long-term chronic inflammation may contribute to and increase the risk of adult cancers.

Areas of South Carolina, such as the I-95 Corridor, have been underdeveloped for a long period of time, and this contributes to numerous problems which include obesity, poverty and increasing health problems which coincide with lagging health care. Obesity in children can lead to numerous health complications as children grow, which include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, chronic inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and cancer. Therefore, eliminating or reducing preventable risk factors such as unhealthy nutrition and childhood obesity could have important implications for reducing clinical manifestations of adult cancer outcomes. The strategies that we implemented to execute this project included: Participant Recruitment, Saliva Collection, RNA Extraction, Reverse Transcription, PCR with target markers, and Analysis of Results.

Participant Recruitment was critical to this process. Throughout the project, we went out into the community and hosted collection days, during which we collected saliva samples from children, ages 2 to 19. After the saliva samples were collected, they were taken back to the lab where we extracted the RNA which then underwent transcription to create cDNA. This cDNA was placed in a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) along with the target gene markers we are studying. The results were analyzed to see the levels that each sample expressed of that targeted gene.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this project for me was found through the participant recruitment and collection process. As we collected these samples, our neighbors learned about the benefits of healthy eating, adequate exercise, and lifestyle choices the can decrease in the intake of pro-inflammatory foods. For me, this summer wasn’t just collecting samples for the benefit of the project—this was an opportunity to provide a service to the different families I met through our research every day.

-Kayla Hasty, Class of 2016 Pinckney Scholar

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