With aspirations of becoming a dermatologist, Stephanie Tuson, a fourth-year Vancouver Island University biology student, presented research about effects of ultraviolet radiation on skin disease at the Create Conference Wednesday.
The conference was a showcase for student projects and research, and Tuson’s work delved into an examination of xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare genetic skin disease. Afflicted people aren’t able to repair their DNA and when exposed to ultraviolet radiation, it causes DNA lesions, possibly leading to skin cancer.
While Tuson said she couldn’t use actual patients, she was able to use two strains of microscopic worms with the same condition.
“What I did was I found, through research, that there’s a bacterial enzyme, Uv-endonuclease … it repairs DNA and so I thought if we could put this on, maybe it would help. So instead of getting cancer from the DNA lesions, the worms, they just stopped growing, so I could use that as a measurement of how well the enzyme was working,” said Tuson.
After putting the enzyme on the worms and exposing them to UV rays, Tuson found that the enzyme helped the worms continue growth.
“It was not a significant difference, but it was different and it was an 11.7 and 5.2 per cent increases in growth,” said Tuson.
“If you re-did this experiment and used actual skin cells rather than the worms, because they have a cuticle, so it wasn’t really the best model … you’d probably see significant results of decreased DNA lesions because of that enzyme,” Tuson said.
She said that her work is preliminary and more research needs to be done. The research experience was invaluable, as was talking about her work at the conference.
“The Create Conference for me is mostly just a practice because we present these at the end of the year for a whole biology symposium and so this is practising, talking to people about the poster and stuff like that,” said Tuson.
Kathryn Jepson, Create coordinator, said the conference affords students the chance to present their work to the public, which is beneficial.
“They’re usually presenting it to students who are familiar with their topics, so presenting to students that are not familiar with their topic is a bit challenging … put it in laymen’s terms,” Jepson said.