Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

David McClenahan, Honors Thesis Advisor


Fluoride is an earthly mineral that occurs naturally both in the sedimentary earth as well as in the human body. The main biological function of fluoride in the human body is to enhance bone structure, as well as prevent the decay of teeth. This mineral has been used by dentists and public health officials to artificially introduce an extra layer of protection through the means of fluoride-enriched public water supplies and toothpastes. By using extra levels of fluoride, dentists have been able to help patients prevent future cavities and dental diseases. Although most dentists highly encourage strategic consumption of these enriched products, there are health concerns that could potentially overshadow the benefit. Excess fluoride in one’s diet may have the ability to do harm to the body and prevent certain physiological functions.

There exists little research on the effects on specific cells of the human immune system under insufficient, normal, or excessive fluoride consumption. The purpose of this thesis is to study how the apoptosis pathway of macrophage THP-1 cells, a class of human immune response cells, is affected by varying levels of fluoride. Macrophage cells, in a controlled and healthy environment, function mainly to phagocytize foreign bacteria and secrete inflammatory chemicals. This response to invasion of the human body helps to fight off unwanted infection and disease. Macrophage cells are also extremely important in eliminating damaged or infected cells through their specialized pathway of programmed cell death. This programmed death, known as apoptosis, can induce a ‘self killing’ signal in cells that are at the end of their lifespan or in cells showing foreign and cancerous markings. This pathway is vital to the health and maintenance of the human immune system. Chemicals or foreign agents that can inhibit or alter this apoptosis pathway have the potential to be detrimental, or in some cases fatal, to human health.

Year of Submission



Department of Biology

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

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