Sarah Flaim is a junior at the University of Kentucky majoring in Biology. She spent her summer working in Dr. Toborek's lab investigating the relationship between exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and nervous system dysfunction. The researchers are trying to see the effects of PCBs on the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). Sarah also studied the effects of PCBs on P-glycoprotein (P-gp), which is an efflux pump in the BBB that removes xenobiotics from the brain.
Sarah did most of her work with PCB 126 and PCB 153. She chose those two PCBs because they have different structures and functions. PCB 126 is coplanar, meaning that two rings lie in approximately the same plane and have no ortho substitutes and is a ligand of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR); PCB 153 is non-coplanar, meaning that the rings are in more perpendicular planes and have ortho substitutes and is a ligand for the constitutive androstane receptor (CAR). In addition to their structural differences, PCB 126 has been discovered to be the most potent coplanar PCB that has dioxin-like activities, and PCB 153 is the most common PCB found in biological samples.
Sarah enjoyed her research experience in the Toborek lab thus far and anticipates the results after her study has been completed. She has learned a great deal in the lab and intends to continue research after this project because she finds research very rewarding. Sarah hopes to be accepted into the University of Kentucky's Graduate Program so that she may aid in studies to discover a way to help reduce the effects of PCBs in human health.