Chesca A. Barrios

Biological Sciences

Chesca Barrios started her research through the UCI STEM Summer Bridge Program as a student at Mt. San Antonio College. She continued work on her project after transferring to UC Irvine and remained in Dr. Flanagan’s lab until her graduation in spring 2012. For Chesca, the most rewarding part of her research has been the opportunity to make new discoveries that can potentially help other researchers and, eventually, the public. She hopes to attend medical school and believes her undergraduate research experience has helped her develop discipline and a strong work ethic that will be critical tools for her continuing education and future career.triangle.gif (504 bytes)




Dielectrophoresis (DEP) is a novel way of sorting and characterizing neural stem cells and their progeny. Our group has found that a neural stem cell’s dielectric property—whether it traps at a specific frequency range or not—reflects cell fate bias and can be used to identify its specific progenitor cells. Although DEP has been applied to neuron and astrocyte progenitor cells, it has yet to be used for oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs). The purpose of this project is twofold: to generate OPCs and confirm their presence through immunostaining and cell migration, and to use DEP to determine OPCs’ dielectric properties. This characterization is increasingly significant because of the field’s recent success in treating neurological diseases and injuries with transplanted OPCs. Migratory behavior and expression of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor-α (PDGFR-α) confirmed the OPC phenotype while O4 expression confirmed differentiation of OPCs into oligodendrocytes. Moreover, the DEP trapping curve of OPCs is significantly different from that of heterogeneous neural stem progenitor cell controls (NSPCs) derived from the same starting cells. This dielectric signature of OPCs is closer to that of neuron progenitor cells (NPCs), which could provide an insight to the development of the OPC lineage.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                

Lisa Flanagan

School of Medicine

Neural stem cells generate specialized progenitors biased to form one of the final differentiated cells of the brain and spinal cord. These cells have enormous potential for the treatment of neurological disease and injury. However, little is known about the properties that distinguish the progenitors in this lineage. Chesca Barrios addressed this by establishing protocols in my lab to culture oligodendrocyte progenitor cells and measure their plasma membrane properties. She identified novel characteristics of these cells that distinguish them from other progenitors. These studies help to clarify the cell biological differences controlling the formation of the different types of mature central nervous system cells. Chesca’s successful research demonstrates the vital role committed and hard-working undergraduates can play in scientific discovery.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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