Jessica A. Herstine received her Bachelor of Science in molecular genetics with a minor in neuroscience from The Ohio State University (OSU) in 2020. That same year, she matriculated as a Ph.D. student in OSU’s Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) graduate program, where she joined the lab of Allison Bradbury at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Herstine is now a Ph.D. candidate with active NIH TL1 training grant funding to investigate gene replacement therapy for a rare genetic leukodystrophy called Vanishing White Matter disease. In her current role, she has become adept in numerous techniques such as direct fibroblast to neuron and astrocyte conversions, viral vector cloning, gene therapy application, mouse colony management, behavioral testing, and preclinical study design and execution. In addition, she has exploited ample opportunities for mentorship and teaching as a teaching assistant through a leadership role in the MCDB Graduate Student Organization and as an officer of the Research Institute’s Trainee Association at Nationwide Children’s. Herstine thoroughly enjoys teaching and inspiring others through science and mentorship. She aspires to have a fulfilling career in academics as a professor and principal investigator so that she can help train the next generation of scientists.
Principal Investigator: Allison Bradbury
Fellow: Raine Brickan
Undergraduate Fellow Project:
One of the focuses of the Bradbury Lab at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is development of a gene therapy for a rare, genetic, neurological disease called vanishing white matter disease (VWM). VWM is an autosomal recessive disorder that leads to ataxia, spasticity, seizures, neurodegeneration and premature death in patients. Jessica Herstine serves as the project lead;her thesis work has included the establishment of novel in vitro models such as patient-derived astrocytes to understand disease etiology. Furthermore, her NIH TL1 training grant includes the use of the I98M toy mouse model to both characterize disease pathology and to evaluate gene therapy efficacy. Currently, neonatal mice are being treated via intra-cerebrospinal fluid (intra-CSF) administration of numerous potential gene therapy constructs. Continual analysis of therapeutic efficacy is evaluated through behavior assays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to visualize disease progression and myelin loss. Additional experiments include post-mortem analysis to analyze histology, molecular disease markers and vector biodistribution. Future studies include dose ranging studies and toxicology testing of the lead candidate gene therapy. A SURFiN fellow would assist in molecular assays related to disease pathogenesis and attenuation with therapy, with additional insight to all aspects of this highly translational and transformative project.