Published: 24 Oct 2014 | Last Updated: 24 Oct 2014 11:45:28

RVC student, Luca Fortuna, BVetMed student), was awarded a Wellcome Trust CVRT vacation award this summer.  He reports back on his experience and the project that he worked on:

"For my Wellcome Trust CVRT vacation award I spent eight weeks over the summer with Dr Rob Noad on the project "Does non-structural protein 1 of African Horse Sickness virus enhance translation of viral messenger RNA?". Over the course of the placement I was taught to use basic molecular biology techniques such as PCR, restriction digest experiments and transforming and culturing bacteria, as well as gaining experience with several pieces of scientific equipment and software. I spent most of the placement using these techniques to try and modify the gene coding for African Horse Sickness nonstructural protein 2 by adding a sequence coding for Green Fluorescent Protein. The aim was to use the fluorescence of the encoded protein as a way of quantifying and comparing viral RNA translation between cell cultures it was co-transfected into with either AHSVNS1 or a control. Unfortunately after trying multiple alternative routes and methods the generation of this construct was unsuccessful. This meant I instead had to use unaltered AHSNS2 as a marker and detect its presence by western blotting, and because of the questionable appropriateness of the antibodies I used (which were raised against the virus itself and so may not react to non-structural protein) the results from this experiment were inconclusive. However, an experiment I conducted simultaneously to whether or not any results from the main experiment were specific to viral proteins bore some unexpected results. I transfected cells with a plasmid encoding GFP and another coding for one of several other proteins, and then measured an compared fluorescence of differentially treated cells as a marker of general protein synthesis. The results indicated that AHSNS2 (and Bluetongue Virus Non-structural protein 1) may cause a general up-regulation of cellular protein synthesis, while AHSVNS1 appeared to have no effect. This could help inform later research into the function of AHSNS2, and so help further our understanding of African Horse Sickness Virus.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time working in the lab and I feel I gained a lot out of the placement, including skills I can take back to my veterinary studies and beyond such as better time management and planning abilities and I learnt a lot about the realities of research work. It was a fascinating experience, and I would fully recommend doing a similar placement to other vet students."

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