TSU Students’ Research Focus on Finding Cure for Heart Disease, Cancer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two Tennessee State University students and their professors have embarked on research projects that could lead to prevention, and possibly a cure, for the nation’s deadliest diseases: cancer and heart disease.

Orica Kutten is a sophomore biology major. (Photo by Courtney Buggs, TSU Media Relations)

Jaquantey Bowen, a senior biochemistry major, and Orica Kutten, a sophomore majoring in biology, presented their projects to fellow students and faculty on Friday during the inaugural Honors Ted Talk, a forum organized by the Honors College to give students and faculty an opportunity to present their work to the campus community.

Motivated by personal tragedies in his family, Bowen, of Fishers, Indiana, has made it his life mission to put an end to heart disease, which is responsible for nearly 610,000 deaths in America each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

His research project, “A Potential Avenue to Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease: An Analysis of the Effect of Genetically-Induced Hypercholesterolemia on Zebrafish,” has also been presented at Harvard and the Brigham Young Women’s Hospital, where it received rave review.

Near his 18th birthday while a freshman at TSU, Bowen’s maternal grandfather died from heart disease, the same disease that claimed his paternal grandfather’s life and several others in his family.

“From that day forward, I vowed to put an end to heart disease,” said Bowen, a graduate of the highly competitive Harvard BWH Stars Program for Summer Research. He maintains a 4.0 GPA and has done field research with “some of the best and notable experts in cardiology.”

“The science behind my research is basically to look at the fundamental mechanisms that lead to heart disease, especially the connection between high cholesterol and atherosclerosis,” said Bowen, who will receive a bachelor’s degree with concentration in cell and molecular biology and a minor in chemistry.

For Kutten, her research project, “Microtubule Actin Crosslinking Factor 1 a Target in Glioblastomas,” or MACF1, aims to identify new and novel targets for the treatment of cancer and to improve therapies for a variety of different cancers.

A native of Cape Coast, Ghana, Kutten said growing up in Africa, much of the discussions were around malaria, a tropical infectious disease.

“But when I learned that cancer was the second cause of deaths, I knew it was an area I would like to study,” Kutten said. “During my time in the lab I have actually learned a lot of concepts that I didn’t actually know before, and which have been very helpful in my research.”

Dr. Coreen Jackson, interim dean of the Honors College, said the importance of Bowens’ and Kutten’s research topics and the participation in the forum are some of the reasons why Ted Talk was established.

“Ted Talk is a wonderful opportunity for all students from all areas to share their research, to share their inventions and creations with the TSU community,” Jackson said. “It is one thing to do all this wonderful research and it just sits on the desk or it is published in the book and no body hears about it. So anyone who has something to share is invited to Ted Talk.”

Mariel Liggin, a freshman biochemistry major, was one of the many students who attended the forum. She said she was impressed by the two presentations, which encouraged her to get more serious about developing her own projects.

“I am glad I came,” Liggin said. Coming here and listening to Jaquantey and Orica gave me an idea of what to do when I start my own research.”

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.