First Advisor

Randy Woltjer

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology and University Honors




Multiple sclerosis, Aquaporins, Myelination




According to the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, MS, a demyelinating brain disease, affects approximately 2.3 million people worldwide. MS affects African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics, but predominantly Caucasians of northern European ancestry. Women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with this disease, and individuals from populations with low vitamin D levels are more likely as well to develop the disease. Currently, there is no cure for MS, although some moderately effective treatments are available to slow some forms of disease progression. However, our understanding of the cause of MS, which would greatly facilitate treatment, remains very incomplete. One clue may be found in the presence of circulating antibodies to a brain protein, aquaporin 4, in the serum of patient with a form of MS, neuromyelitis optica, that affects chiefly the spinal cord and optic nerves. In this study, immunohistochemistry was used to determine abnormalities of this and a related protein, aquaporin 1, in brain tissues of deceased patients who were diagnosed with MS in comparison to control patients with normal brain tissues. Although MS affects mostly white matter, we found increased expression of aquaporin 1 in gray matter in the vicinity of demyelinated plaques in patients with MS compared to unaffected areas of brain in both MS and control patients. In contrast, expression of aquaporin 4 was relatively unchanged in these areas. We determined that increased aquaporin 1 expression was due to a change in the phenotype of astrocytes, a support cell of the brain, in the cerebral cortex in and near demyelinated areas in MS. This change in astrocytes may underlie some of the brain dysfunction observed in patients with MS.


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An undergraduate honors thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Science in University Honors and Organismal Biology

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