Steven Choi Receives GSK/CSPS National Undergraduate Research Poster Award

University of Toronto student Steven Choi was the recent recipient of the GSK/CSPS National Undergraduate Student Research Poster Award at the Canadian Society for Pharmaceutical Sciences Conference held May 10-12, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec.

Steven was a student in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy Undergraduate Summer Research Program. He worked with Dr. Reina Bendayan and trained in her laboratory in the summer of 2016. Steven received the Faculty Summer Student Undergraduate Poster Award in 2016 which allowed him to be invited and present the work at the CSPS Conference.

Steven’s poster, “Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma (PPAR-γ)” looked at potential therapeutic targeting in HIV-1 associated brain inflammation and excitotoxicity.

Despite the implementation of combination antiretroviral therapy for the treatment of HIV-1 infection, cognitive impairments remain prevalent due to persistent viral replication and associated brain inflammation. Primary cellular targets of HIV-1 in the brain are microglia and to a lesser extent astrocytes, which in response to infection release inflammatory markers, viral proteins and exhibit impaired glutamate uptake. Ample evidence suggests that neurocognitive impairments are attributed to brain inflammation, excitotoxicity and neuronal apoptosis. Steven investigated the potential role of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-γ), a transcriptional factor related to glucose and fatty acid metabolism, as a novel target in modulating glutamate transporter expression.

Steven’s findings suggest that PPAR-γ activation can potentially exert neuroprotective effects by downregulating the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing the expression of glutamate transporter in the context of HIV-associated brain inflammation. Further studies are needed, as targeting PPAR-γ signaling may provide a therapeutic option for preventing and treating HIV-associated brain inflammation and excitotoxicity.

Click here to view Steven’s poster.