Currently, two of the behavioral neuroscience program’s freezers contain brain tissue dating back 15 years — when the program first began collecting research samples.
Inside the freezers are small white boxes, labeled in marker, covered in frost. The boxes are stacked neatly and nearly to the top of the freezer.
The freezers are rapidly approaching full capacity. In order to continue storing sensitive samples, the program created a crowdsourcing page to raise $10,000 for a new freezer capable of temperatures of -80 degrees Celsius.
The program is fundraising for is a Thermo Scientific TSU500D freezer with a capacity of 24.1 cubic feet and a temperature range of -50 C to -86 C. It originally cost $16,000, but the behavioral neuroscience program was able to get a 50 percent price reduction. With the added cost of shipping and installation, the total cost of the freezer will be about $10,000.
The program is crowdsourcing funds for the freezer with a Facebook and email campaign directed toward current students and alumni. Funding the freezer this way also preserves the grants used by professors to further their research. For donations $100 and over, or $20 from current students, donors will be able to have their name inscribed on the freezer.
“Essentially, all studies where we look at things on a molecular level, we will use freezers,” said Dom Shuttleworth, a behavioral neuroscience major and Neuroscience Research Driven Students publicist.
Neuroscience Research Driven Students, more commonly know as NeRDS, is…
Shuttleworth is studying Huntington’s disease by injecting mice with antisense oligonucleotides, or ASOs, a drug used to silence the protein that causes Huntington’s disease in the liver. The mice are then put through behavioral tests to see if the ASOs have helped decrease the symptoms caused by the disease.
The importance of the ultra-low temperature capability of the freezers lies in slowing down molecular processes to preserve research specimens.
“Once you disrupt cells they kind of undergo a self-destruction process where a lot of proteins, RNAs and other molecular components in the cells are pretty much instantly degraded. So if they are frozen at -80 C those processes pretty much grind to a halt,” said Sean Andersen, the Behavioral Neuroscience Program Coordinator.
Yulia Rybalka, a senior in the behavioral neuroscience program and vice president of NeRDS, said the department rarely disposes of many tissues.
“We have tissue from a long period of time. Even going back a year or two, you can go back and see what research has been done on those brain samples,” Rybalka said.
The program initially had a Dec. 31, 2015 deadline for the fundraiser, but has now extended it indefinitely in order to reach their goal. Once the freezer is purchased, the behavioral neuroscience program plans to showcase it in May during Back to Bellingham.
To donate, follow the link on the behavioral neuroscience program website at wp.wwu.edu/bnsprogram.