Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School




Program or Major

Biomedical Science

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

David Needle

Second Advisor

Sherine Elsawa


Cephalopods can participate in complex navigation using landmarks that show context due to their statocysts. Statocysts are analogous to the vertebrate vestibular and auditory system encased in cartilage rather than bone making them more easily accessible. Age and anatomical dysfunctions are the reasons for many human vestibular malfunctions. Two of these sources are endolymph hydrops and aging. In the past, endolymph pressure changes were attributed to the ineffectual ion transport. Recent studies have illuminated the possibility of histamine receptors in the semicircular canal could be responsible for patients’ endolymph pressure changes rather than the previous belief that the pressure changes were due to high salt diets. Cephalopods have provided several models for studying vestibular dysfunction and a multitude of other peripheral and central nervous system attributes. The natural life stage of cephalopods results in immune suppression called senescence. Identifying developmental apoptotic changes, as well as assessing statocyst histamine amounts could indicate the validity of using cephalopods as a model for vertebrate vestibular malfunctions. We hypothesized that cell death and histamine would increase with age. Cephalopods were obtained from the Marine Biology Lab in Woods Hole Massachusetts and fixed less than sixteen hours post mortem. The specimens were then dissected and embedded to be put on slides. Immunofluorescence using indirect histamine and TUNEL assay were performed to evaluate the statocysts developmentally. These assays were done in duplicate; however, statistical significance was not determined. The results also seemingly contradicted our hypothesis with higher amounts of cell death, as well as histamine present in the young adults when compared to senescent adults across all species. However, it is worth noting that the nascent pilot study was successful in documenting histamine and apoptosis in the statocyst.



Ms. Shelby Halley, head histology technician at NHVDL for her time and work preparing slides. INCO grant.