This Biochemistry major is contributing to research that could revolutionize the way clinicians treat chronic disease

Headshot of Joey LaMorte '23

As a student researcher in the lab of Aimee Eggler, PhD, Joey LaMorte ’23 devoted the last 18 months to studying the potential of novel molecule combinations that could be game changers in combating the epidemic of chronic disease in the US.

Searching for Answers

About 50 percent of Americans suffer from a chronic disease, and 86 percent of US health care costs are spent treating chronic diseases. Research suggests activating Nrf2 protein could help in the prevention of numerous diseases—from cancer and neurodegenerative conditions to arthritis and asthma.

“Essentially, Nrf2 is the major regulator of a cell’s response to stressors,” Joey explains. “It binds to DNA to produce RNA that gets translated into proteins that can eliminate the stressors that contribute to chronic disease progression.” Joey is working with Dr. Eggler, associate professor of Biochemistry, and the team of undergraduate and graduate students in her research group to better understand this relationship and investigate which molecules work best to boost Nrf2 levels.

Hitting the Books

Joey planned to spend the spring 2020 semester shadowing Dr. Eggler and her students and being trained in the intricacies of lab work. He adjusted his plan due to COVID-19 restrictions, and instead combed through online scientific journal databases, immersing himself in the most current research on Nrf2.

“Reading and analyzing scientific papers, evaluating the research methods, and determining how and if it’s applicable to your own research are skills that take a lot of time to develop,” Joey says. “The time I spent working remotely turned out to be a huge help in designing my own experiments once I got back in the lab in August 2020.”

Findings Worth Sharing

Diving right into hands-on lab work in fall 2020, Joey spent the year on experiments that involved studying molecules that work synergistically to activate Nrf2. He was scheduled to virtually present the results of this research at an international conference of scientists and clinicians in November 2021.

In the meantime, he is also helping to prepare article manuscripts for submission to two peer-reviewed scientific journals, Free Radical Biology & Medicine and Redox Biology.