Student research published in Journal of Neurotoxicology

Students from the School of Biological Sciences and the Molecular Sciences and Nanotechnology (MSNT) program recently published their findings on the impact of photon and proton radiation on neurological DNA repair and mitochondrial activity in the Journal of Neurotoxicology.

In 201, Biology students Kaitlynn Willis and Kristen H. Hutson received undergraduate research awards from the Louisiana Space Grant Consortium to investigate the toxic effects of ionizing radiation on human astrocytes. This work was a collaborative study between Dr. Gergana Nestorova’s research group and Willis-Knighton Cancer Center in Shreveport. 

Hutson is currently a master’s student in the MSNT program while Willis started Veterinary School at LSU this fall. Chukwumaobim Nwokwu, a doctoral student in the MSNT program, contributed significantly to the execution of this work as well.

“It was found that even low doses of radiation can impair our DNA’s ability to detect and repair the damage while elevating mitochondrial oxidative stress levels and impairing its function,” Nestorova said. “The results from this study could help future researchers combat the negative effects radiation exposure has on our bodies.”

There are dozens of fields that this knowledge applies to, including cancer treatment and space research.

“After all of our hard work, it is nice getting recognized,” Hutson said. “Being published is truly something special because it legitimizes your work as a scientist. Every legitimate research project contributes, in at least some small way, to making the world a better place. That’s what science is all about, and I am honored to be a part of that.”   

The researchers encountered many challenges getting the research findings from the lab to the journal. The process of publishing science involves a series of checks and balances by an anonymous peer-review team to make sure that the work is authentic. Under normal circumstances, completing the necessary experiments and rebuttal letters to the reviewers is a huge undertaking. But with the added obstacles from the COVID-19 pandemic, achieving the status of “published author” makes the work of this lab team exceptional.           

 “I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Nestorova and my lab colleagues on this project,” Hutson said. “I have gained so much experience and have also learned how challenging it can be to obtain viable results, especially during a pandemic. To me, getting published means that if you work as a team towards a goal worth achieving, anything is possible.”

The manuscript is published in the Journal of Neurotoxicology’s January 2021 edition.

For information on how to get involved with research at Louisiana Tech, contact Hutson at