BMS Ph.D. candidate Mike Brown presents paper at symposium in Ireland

Mike Brown, Ph.D. candidateMike Brown, a Ph.D. candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, recently presented at the Lipid Biology and Lipotoxicity Symposium in Kerry, Ireland. The meeting was organized in collaboration with the Science Foundation of Ireland. The symposium focused on metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, conditions of high prevalence in West Virginia.

Mike’s paper is entitled “S-Adenosyl-L-methionine Attenuation of Lipid Peroxidation Markers Following Acetaminophen Toxicity.” Acetaminophen toxicity induces cellular changes that generate a reactive substance called 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE). 4-HNE can become adducted to proteins through lipid peroxidation, which is the free radical break down of lipids. According to Mike, before this study, no one had studied exactly how this by-product binds to proteins. S-Adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) has many important functions in the liver and serves as the body’s main defense mechanism against oxidative stress. It helps to replenish the cellular supply of glutathione, an important antioxidant that is depleted by acetaminophen poisoning. Mike prepared this paper in coordination with research technician John G. Ball, and his mentor, Dr. Monica Valentovic. His research is part of an ongoing collaboration with the University of Arizona that has been in existence for five years.

Although Mike has been to many conferences, this was his first time attending a Keystone Symposium. Keystone is a non-profit organization that, according to its mission statement, “is dedicated to connecting the scientific community for the benefit of the world community and accelerating life science discovery.” Mike calls the event an “immersive experience” that spanned seven days and included a plethora of oral presentations on cutting-edge science. Attendees came from across Europe and from as far as Asia, and Mike valued the opportunity to interact with people from such diverse places. In addition, Mike was able to see much of Southwest Ireland, as the meeting allowed plenty of unstructured time for participants to engage in local tourism. Mike’s travels included Blarney Castle, home of the famous Blarney Stone of St. Patrick’s Day lore. He also had the opportunity to travel to the town of Killorglin to participate in the King Puck festival, one of Ireland’s oldest celebrations, in which a wild goat is caught and crowned king.

In order to qualify to attend and present at the conference, Mike was required to submit an abstract of his research, which had to withstand a selection process. He recommends the conference highly, as it provided an intimate setting of only a few hundred participants. Mike has attended conferences with thousands of attendees, and he appreciated the opportunity to have more one-on-one time to discuss his poster.

Mike’s travel to the conference was funded for by the Biomedical Science Graduate Program’s Best Overall Performance Award of 2010. Each year, this award is given to a BMS Graduate Student with the best overall combination of academic achievement, research achievement, and service to the BMS Graduate Program. It provides $3500 toward attendance at an international research meeting. The award covers airfare, accommodations, and conference fees.

For Mike, the greatest benefit of the conference was the opportunity to gain valuable résumé-building experience. “The opportunity to attend an international conference is invaluable,” he says, “and this is something that Marshall makes a good push to get students to do.” Mike was even approached with a post-doctoral opportunity, proof of the amazing networking opportunities such a conference brings.

To learn more about the Lipid Biology and Lipotoxicity Symposium, you can review Keystone Symposia’s Lipid Biology and Lipotoxicity Symposium website.