Week 2: Diving into Experiments

May 26, 2020

Hi everyone! Not only have experiments started up, but I have been introduced to a lot of different opportunities. Here’s been my experience so far: 

 

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the 9th International DoD State-of-the-Science Meeting, with the topic being burn injuries on the battlefield. One of my on-site mentors, Colonel Kevin Chung was the keynote speaker for the event. Though the meeting wasn’t directly relevant to my actual research project, the information gave me a new insight on military research. It also allowed me to tap into the thought processes of high ranking military officials and experts on the topic. The structure of the meeting was simple, yet intuitive. The first third implied the urgency of the problem, the middle part explained different struggles that researchers have had to approach the problem, and the back end proposed a variety of preliminary solutions. This meeting is the first time that I have ever seen how an expert approaches research. On the surface, burn injuries on the battlefield seem like a simple problem with many readily available solutions. However, as I listened to the first part of the meeting, I quickly realized that many of the solutions are dated, which hinders both the military’s overall performance potential as well as the long term health of many veterans. 

 

The experiment itself began with my introduction to C57BL/6 mice (BL/6s), which is a type of genetically modified mouse that is bred in the lab. I learned that BL/6s are optimal for these kinds of experiments because of the similar characteristics they exhibit with humans when it comes to symptoms, their inexpensive cost, and their ease of analysis. We experimented on six mice, with three of them receiving the treatment and the others being a baseline. We started the experiment by putting the mice to sleep to allow us to carry on with the experiment without complications. We then shaved around where each mouse’s kidney was so that we could remove it later more efficiently. Then, we began the tourniquet replication by placing latex o-rings (similar to rubber bands) around each hindlimb to restrict blood flow for about 22 hours. During this waiting time, we prepared two different treatments; a DMSO solution and a disulfiram solution, which are both used to decrease TNF-α induced cell death within the kidney. One day after the latex o-ring was applied, we took blood samples and used a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to analyze the amount of ACE and ACE2 proteins present within the bloodstream due to the ischemia-reperfusion process. An image of a PCR sample will be attached below. This concluded this week of experiments, and I will explain the vocab in much greater detail in my final presentation. 

Finally, today, we took a break from experiments and Dr. Zhou and I spent the day with Dr. Peter Yuen from the National Institute of Health. He also specializes in kidney research and gave us valuable feedback on our work. In one of our conversations, however, I asked him why he chose to become a PhD rather than a medical doctor so that I can gain a broader perspective to improve my career choice. He told me that he always had a passion for being in the healthcare industry for the sake of helping others. His deciding factor was that he understood that he was much more of a conceptual learner than a memorizer, so he knew that he would have a harder time at medical school. What I took away from this conversation was that choosing a career that I love will require me to completely evaluate who I am and where my heart lies. Even though Dr. Yuen thought that becoming an M.D was appealing, he evaluated his strengths and found his calling. 

This week was packed with new experiences, and I am already loving my time here. I will be on Spring Break next week, so there probably will not be a blog post. I will keep you updated!

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