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Presentation Time: 2:45-3:05
Home University: UNC-Chapel Hill
Research Mentor: Anthony Zannas, Psychiatry
Program: SURF
Research Title: The Relation Between Stress-Induced Epigenetic Changes and Cell Morphology

Historically, cellular morphology has been described using non-specific qualitative language and example images rather than quantitative data, limiting its investigation. The novel technologies ilastik and CellProfiler have emerged to solve this issue and allow for the high-throughput analysis of images to yield quantitative metrics such as cell area, perimeter, circularity, and branching using artificial intelligence (AI)-based cell recognition. Here, we created an ilastik and CellProfiler pipeline that focuses on the morphological measurement of IMR-90 fetal lung fibroblasts using composite images generated by the overlay of transmission microscopy and DAPI nuclear staining images. This pipeline has been utilized to compare the stress-based morphological changes induced by cortisol treatment of cells at a physiological level of 100 nm. Stressed and control groups do not differ in cell area, circularity, or perimeter. However, the stressed cells have a shorter average length per projection per cell. Further work is being done to correlate these morphological changes with known epigenetic changes, and to examine the influence of proliferation on them. Broadly, this pipeline is easily expandable to other cell types, meaning that many more morphological changes stand to be investigated.