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Cannabigerol or CBG molecular structural chemical formula against colorful science backdrop.

Biological Sciences Master's Student Research Could Lead to Improvements in Liver Disease Outcomes

UNC's top-notch research facilities attracted Raznin Joly to the Biological Sciences M.S. – Thesis Concentration program. She was eager to learn lab techniques and research methodologies and was especially keen on Associate Professor Yuyan Han's liver inflammation and disease research.

The University of Northern Colorado’s top-notch research facilities attracted Raznin Joly to the Biological Sciences M.S. – Thesis Concentration program. Joly was eager to learn laboratory techniques and research methodologies. She was especially keen on Associate Professor Yuyan Han's liver inflammation and disease research.

Han has been her mentor throughout her time at UNC. As she nears graduation this year, Joly is researching how cannabigerol (CBG) might mitigate liver disease toxicity. CBG is a cannabinoid, a non-psychoactive compound derived from the cannabis plant. She became interested in the healing power of drugs at the University of Dhaka in her home country of Bangladesh, where she earned a bachelor's degree in Pharmacy and a master's degree in Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacology.

“I'm always interested in looking at the therapeutic potential of any drug molecule and finding something that might be helpful for recovery from any disease,” Joly said.

That interest led to her investigation of CBG’s therapeutic potential in ameliorating liver inflammation, or scarring, in people with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a condition in which the liver builds up excessive fat deposits. In a pre-clinical animal study, Joly uses female mice to differentiate drug efficacy between genders.

UNC’s molecular genetics and research foundation classes helped prepare her for the project. In those courses, she learned about reviewing the literature, building the sample size and analyzing the statistics. While she conducted research, she also seized opportunities to enhance her credibility within the field through writing projects and speaking engagements.

Last December, Joly was listed as one of the authors of “Low-Dose Administration of Cannabigerol Attenuates Inflammation and Fibrosis Associated with Methionine/Choline Deficient Diet-Induced NASH Model via Modulation of Cannabinoid Receptor” in the journal Nutrients along with Han and others. In addition to writing about CBG research, Joly will present details of her research on female mice at UNC’s fall 2023 Biological Sciences Seminar.

Raznin Joly
Raznin Joly

“It is really meaningful for me to participate in the seminar because I want to be a researcher, and public speaking is a skill I need to develop. This opportunity gives me a chance to speak in front of a group of people to build up my confidence,” said Joly.

The busy international student also works as a teaching assistant in the School of Biological Sciences in the College of Natural and Health Sciences. As the microbiology laboratory class instructor, she trains undergraduate students in lab techniques.

Han has overseen her work as a graduate student, helped her troubleshoot her thesis project and allowed her the flexibility to work around her schedule. She said Joly has been a dedicated student who hasn’t let her fear of live mice prevent her from participating in the animal study; instead, she has compensated by handling euthanized mice. She recalled a night when, until almost midnight, she and Joly ran flow cytometry. This technology rapidly analyzes single cells or particles suspended in a buffered salt-based solution as they flow past lasers. She said Joly never complained about the late hour.

“I teach her the basics, and then she continues to sharpen her skills. After a couple of semesters, our dynamic evolved to a kind of equally contributing input and output between us,” said Han. “Raznin has made the obstacles — her fear of live mice and having a mother tongue that isn’t English — her motivation to stand out. She has grown so much in a short time, in the lab, as a TA and as a highly motivated student.”

Han said Joly's animal study on CBG is essential because much of the existing research has used only male mice, making her research directly applicable to the female population of NASH patients.

Next, Joly hopes to enroll in a doctoral program.

— written by Brenda Gillen

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