Phone: (403) 394-3959
Lab: EP 1241
Zak was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. He began his academic career at the University of Regina in the biology program. During this time, he focused his studies on biology, psychology, and philosophy. He transferred to the University of Lethbridge in 2011 to combine these three interests and study neuroscience. He completed his B.Sc. in 2013 and continued on to do his M.Sc. in the Polaris group.
Visualizing immediate early gene (IEG) mRNA expression allows for monitoring neuronal activation over a large population of cells. The current methods of visualizing these IEG mRNAs are difficult, costly, and slow. The goal of Zak’s work is to develop a viral vector or transgenic animal that allows for in-vivo visualization of Arc transcriptional activity using fluorescent microscopy. It consists of a synthetic RNA construct that is expressed at the same time as endogenous Arc mRNA using a synthetic Arc promoter. This synthetic RNA construct is bound by two proteins that fluoresce brightly when they are dimerized, producing a foci in the cells that undergo post-activation Arc transcription. Primary neuron isolation and culture, packaging and transfection of the constructs, and in-vivo fluorescent microscopy will be used to verify the function of the system, both in cell culture and living animals.