Every day of the Summer 2019 semester biology major Taylor Morgan heads into the lab in Zeis Hall to check on his cells. They need food and water; they might need a little bath.

“They’re like little animals,” Morgan said.

The cells, and Morgan, are part of an ongoing research project headed up by Angel Kaur, assistant professor of neuroscience and director of the neuroscience minor program at UNC Asheville, which is investigating the neurodegenerative disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

“ALS appears to require a complex interaction between genes and the environment,” Kaur explained. “You could have genes that make you more vulnerable to developing ALS but never actually get it because you weren’t environmental risk factors. It seems to take a combination of those two things.”

Kaur and her research students are investigating two particular proteins, and how mutations within those proteins are linked to ALS. One group of students, including Morgan, works on testing and examining the effects of protein TDP-43 on a motor neuron-like cell line, derived from the spinal cords of mice.

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Originally published Aug. 8, 2019.