Griffin Andrews

Effect of Aspartame on C. elegans displaying Parkinson’s like symptoms

My research focuses on two seemingly different, yet very similar problems, parkinsons disease and spartame. Parkinsons disease affects the lives of over 6 million people worldwide. it is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States, yet we still know little about the disease and are far from finding a cure. We know parkinsons results in the death of dopamine neurons in our brain. dopamine is the reward system for our body, and without it our body suffers from motor and cognative issues. Aspartame is a very common sugar substitute found in most diet sodas, sugar free foods, and also in pills. while it is considered safe by the fda, studies have shown that aspartame has many possible negative affects on the brain and body. one of these effects is the decrease of dopamine levels in the brain. This brings to question, how does aspartame affect the symptoms of parkinsonian patients. To test this I used microscopic worms called C. elegans that have dopamanergic neurons that closely resemble that of humans. by giving the worms a neurotoxin called 6-OHDA, I killed their dopamine neurons to resemble the motor symptoms of a person with parkinsons disease. then by having different groups of worms, some given aspartame, some given regualr sugar,and some having neither, i compared the severity of their symptoms using a mobility shift test to find if aspartame worsens their symptoms. With this information we might be able to further research the effects of this common sugar substitute and as a result help reduce the synptoms of some parkinsonian patients, and better understand how the disease works.

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