Graduate Program

Biological Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Fall 2022

Thesis Director

Thomas Canam

Thesis Committee Member

Gordon C. Tucker

Thesis Committee Member

Eloy Martinez


Neurodegenerative diseases severely reduce quality of life and are often responsible for the death of those suffering from them. In addition to the societal toll these diseases inflict on populations, the health care costs are estimated to be hundreds of billions of dollars annually for the U.S. alone. Unfortunately, direct pharmacological treatment for some of the most common of these diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, remains elusive. Traditional medicine in China and India have recommended a variety of plants for preventing and treating these diseases. For example, Centella asiatica (L.) Urban, also knows as Gotu Kola, is believed to treat and prevent many common ailments and diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related diseases. C. asiatica has been shown to contain phytochemicals, such as asiatic acid (AA) and madecassic acid (MA), which are believed to be responsible for the physiological response by humans to C. asiatica extracts. The present research examined the transcriptomes of mouse Neuro-2a cells treated with AA, MA, and ethanol (vehicle) to discover gene transcripts that were highly expressed (10X or greater) by both AA and MA treatments compared to ethanol alone. This resulted in a core set of 23 transcripts, which was used to determine a subset of transcripts for cloning into a mammalian overexpression plasmid (pcDNA-DEST40). High level expression of the five transcripts (Mpp3-204, Pak1-206, Tardbp-204, Usf1-210, and Zc3h15-204) following AA and MA treatments was verified using qPCR. The suite of plasmids containing these transcripts will be used in subsequent experiments with neurons in culture to explore whether one of these proteins or a combination of them is sufficient for significantly increased neurite outgrowth and length, as was demonstrated with direct AA and MA treatments.