Zika lunch & learn to be hosted at Bainbridge State

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2016

By Susanne Reynolds

Special to The Post-Searchlight
Bainbridge State College with the support of Memorial Hospital & Manor and The Georgia Department of Public Health will be hosting a free Lunch & Learn event to educate the community about the Zika Virus on Monday, October 3, beginning at noon in the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center dining room, located on the Bainbridge State College campus.

The free lunch event will include a presentation by two Florida State University graduate students who co-authored the groundbreaking research on the Zika Virus with FSU’s Dr. Hengli Tang.

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According to Dr. Stuart Rayfield, BSC Interim President, it is important for the College to reach out and educate the community on potential public health issues.

“Bainbridge State College is looking forward to hosting two FSU researchers who have completed significant research on the Zika Virus,” she said. “This is an opportunity to bring our community together for education on an important public health issue. While we hope we will never have to deal with the virus in our community, we know that knowledge is the key to keep our community safe.”

Both Sarah Ogden and Christy Hammock will speak on research and prevention of the Zika Virus.

Sarah Ogden, a fifth year PhD candidate in Dr. Hengli Tang’s lab at FSU, graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked in an immunology lab at Duke University where she became interested in studying how the body responds to foreign substances.

Since entering the molecular biology program at Florida State University and joining the Tang lab, Ogden has studied how viruses take advantage of their hosts to cause infection. Previously, Sarah’s research focused on hepatitis C virus, specifically examining how the chemical properties of a specific host protein assisted viral infection.

Excitingly, highly effective drug treatments for hepatitis C virus became available in 2014, and the Tang lab moved their attention to studying flaviruses, such as dengue virus. In the last three years, outbreaks of another flaviirus, Zika virus, became a global health concern and spurred the Tang lab to refocus their research efforts.

Since early 2016, Sarah and colleagues have been working with Dr. Hongjun Song’s and Dr. Guo-li Ming’s labs at John Hopkins University, and together researching how Zika virus infects developing brain cells, screening for potential drug targets, and identifying host factors involved in Zika infection or pathogenesis.

In the past year, Sarah has co-authored 6 publications, including Zika-related work in Cell Stem Cell, Cell, and Nature Medicine

Christy Hammack will be accompanying Ogden on Monday, Oct. 3 to Bainbridge State College to present valuable information on Zika.

She earned her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and is currently a 5th year PhD candidate in Dr. Hengli Tang’s laboratory at the Florida State University.

Her motivation to study in Dr. Hengli Tang’s lab stemmed from her interest in hepatitis C virus (HCV) research, a field that Dr. Tang had contributed to for over a decade. With the exciting development of highly effective antiviral treatments for HCV-infected patients in 2014, the Tang lab refocused their work on significant reemerging human pathogens such as dengue virus.

In early 2016, a possible connection between an outbreak of zika virus (ZIKV) and increased cases of microcephaly in Brazil prompted the Tang lab to undertake ZIKV research, an area that was severely understudied at the time.

In collaboration with Dr. Hongjun Song’s and Dr. Guo-Li Ming’s lab at John Hopkins University, Hammock and her colleagues discovered the cellular targets of ZIKV in the human brain, neural progenitor cells that give rise to mature neurons, and importantly found that ZIKV infection resulted in transcriptional perturbation and eventual death of these cells.

Since this initial discovery, the Tang lab has uncovered antiviral drugs that are highly effective at preventing ZIKV replication in neural cells and today continue research in this important area. Hammock has co-authored 6 publications this year, including one in Cell Stem Cell, one in Cell, and most recently one in Nature Medicine.

The event will include a free lunch during the presentation (first come, first-served).

For more information on the Lunch & Learn: Zika Virus, please visit www.bainbridge.edu.