Researching Viral Infections in Mice
College of Science Undergraduate Wants to Know if One Viral Infection Can Affect the Formation of Other Viral Diseases in Mice
Emmanuel Ijezie came to college to become a physician. However, after the senior from Anambra State, Nigeria, completed his first research project in the summer of 2017, his plans shifted slightly.
Ijezie, who is double majoring in molecular biology and biotechnology, still intends to go to medical school after graduating from the University of Idaho this spring and taking a gap year, but he plans to become a clinical virologist.
“I want to play a part in providing the research data that is necessary to develop vaccines for diseases in underdeveloped nations,” Ijezie said.
The 22-year-old said he specifically chose to attend U of I because of the cutting-edge research projects being conducted at the school.
Ijezie joined the lab of Tanya Miura, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science, where he was assigned to the histology station, which specializes in growing and studying cell tissues.
Ijezie’s current project focuses on how one viral infection can help or inhibit other viral diseases from forming. He analyzes diseased mouse lungs infected with either a single virus strain or multiple virus strains simultaneously, referred to as a co-infection.
Specifically, he observed the differences in disease severity between a mouse lung infected with influenza and one infected with rhinovirus — the common cold — and influenza.
Ijezie, a self-proclaimed “virtuoso” in preparing the mouse lung tissue for analysis, said he first had to embed the lung samples into waxy blocks. He then mounted the wax blocks onto microscope slides.
“No one else knew how to make the slides,” Ijezie said. “I had to suffer a lot of unsuccessful attempts, but once I got my first slides right, I never looked back.”
Ijezie said his research team discovered that the co-infected mice showed fewer signs of disease and had lower lung inflammation than mice infected with only influenza.
He thinks the mice with two infections become less sick because the rhinovirus triggers an immune response in the mouse, and since the immune system is already activated, it is prepared and able to fight off the secondary infection.
“Understanding the mechanisms involved during viral co-infections will provide scientists better tools to cure and prevent diseases,” Ijezie said.
Ijezie’s findings could lead to scientists creating more effective vaccines and better protect people against diseases. He hopes to continue working with viruses and eventually partner with the World Health Organization.
“I am passionate about bringing affordable medication to regions of the globe that have been neglected in the past,” Ijezie said.
Emmanuel Ijezie is an OUR Undergraduate Research Grant & OUR Travel Grant award recipient.
Article by Olivia Heersink, a junior from Fruitland, Idaho, majoring in journalism with a minor in justice studies.
Photos by Madelen Johansson, a senior from Tibro, Sweden, studying interior design.
Published in July 2018.
This project, “Molecular and organismal evolution,” was funded under NSF REU Site award 1460696. The total amount of federal funds for the project is $359,797, which amounts to 100% of the total cost of the project. This project, “Center for Modeling Complex Interactions,” was funded under Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant P20 GM104420-01A1. The total amount of federal funds for the project is $6,329,234, which amounts to 100% of the total cost of the project.