Fun with Cells

In case you’ve all been wondering where I’ve been all these months, I’ve been testing, training, and learning new techniques so that I can be armed to the teeth with the skills I need for future research in graduate school.  Through February and March, I finished my last quarter of classes at my undergraduate institution and entered training for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine program.  After a week of stem cell boot camp, I was sent to my assigned lab and immediately put to work.  After an adjustment period where I learned not only different cell culture techniques for both embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells, how to electrospin nanofibrous scaffolds, and proper operation of a scanning electron microscope; I began to conduct the experiments required for my project.  Currently, I’m observing gene expression patterns in cell colonies after differentiating induced pluripotent cells into either mesendodermal or ectodermal lineages.  The study is ongoing, but I’m already beginning to see some positive fruits of my labors.  Wish me luck!

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A Scientific Interlude

After the testing was completed, eveything ran smoothly. I troubleshooted the bacterial colonies and all were healthy. They just needed to be agitated to get off the bottom of the test tube. After compiling and interpreting the data, I was ready to publish. The first journal found my work interesting but too specialized. So, I’m off to PLOS One to see if they want to take a look. The controls did as they were meant to do, but the fungus I was testing did something very interesting: It extended the lifespans of my test subjects instead of giving them fatal oral infections. So, now the question for further testing is why. Wish me luck!

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Back to the Grind

Hello all!  Sorry about the delay again.  I finally got all of my ducks in a row.  So, the experiment has started and I’m collecting data on it so I can analyze it later on.  For now, I’m just running through my grad school applications and getting the last dregs of my requirements done.  With scheduling and grades on my side, I should be graduating this coming Summer.  So far, no problems with the flies, bacteria, yeast, or food this time around.  Though, I am a bit concerned with the seemingly small if nonexistent growth of the Lactobacillus plantarum culture.  I’ll look more into it to make sure that everything is okay.  Beyond that, the data will reveal the truth if I can’t find anything.

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Fun with Logistics

The paper has long since been approved and my test subjects have been shipped in!  So, now we’re figuring out how to keep them isolated without interfering with other people’s work.  It was decided that I’ll be observing both lifespan and effects on mating behavior based on the bacteria and yeast each group gets exposed to.

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Papers Please

I’m working on getting my proposal approved.  This time, I’m going to observe the lifespan and mating behaviors of Drosophila after altering their gut microbiomes.  To keep track of whether or not they’re actually retaining these bacterial populations, I’m going to culture a vial of flies, feed them the stock with bacteria in it for 3 days, sterilize their exterior, make a homegenate, and then 16s sequence the interior bacteria to compare them to a baseline microbiome.  Otherwise, as a Plan B, I’ll compare infection rates of bacteria vs yeast and mating behaviors after infection.  Was flooded with papers as material, but managed to sift through the literature and found some good protocols to use.

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The Very Long Year

Hello again.  I’m aware that this blog hasn’t exactly been flourishing with new activity, but I’m back.  I was mostly focused on prepping my vitamin E project for the 40th Annual West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference.  It was a wild ride, but the poster was printed and the explanation prepared.  I made it to the participation round, but didn’t win.  That’s okay though, because that means that I have more room for improvement.  There always is room for improvement no matter what you do and how well you do it, but sometimes, you need to be made more aware of it.  So, for this next project, I just submitted the proposal form and we’ll see where it takes me.  To ensure I have more fuel to write about, I’ll update more frequently as my newest research project progresses.  As a sneak peek, my aim is to further our understanding of bacterial population ratios within the gut microbiome using our old friend Drosophila as a model.

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Another Triumphant Return

I’m still here. Day 11 of Summer Break and getting re-adjusted. All but two vials of the original twelve of my second round of alpha-tocopherol and EtOH dosed flies are dead now. So, once these last two have ran their last climbing assays or simply do not survive until testing day, I will begin processing the data. My mentor has given me a new assignment and as soon as I get this data and paper done, I’ll be right on it. For now, I’m eagerly awaiting the paper in order to look it through and write the research proposal. I’ll start looking myself based on the notes from today.
In addition, many other things have happened. After weeks of anxious waiting, I am pleased to announce that I made it through both interviews at Riverside Community Hospital and will soon be working there as an intern at least four hours a week. I hesitated to tell anyone yet because I don’t like being uncertain in my direction and being proven wrong after I say anything. After all, one shouldn’t count their chickens before they are hatched. After a health screening this week, my training officially starts in early July.

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The Certs Keep Coming On

Well, I know that it’s been a while.  I’ll just let everyone know what I’ve been up to lately:

So far, I’ve managed to earn both my American Heart Association BLS certification and my Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED certification.  Also, I’m still working on my research and classes.  Was having some technical and other difficulties, but I’ve worked through them.  Either way, I’m back on track.

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That’s the Way the Medium Crumbles

It has been a while since I have updated this website. So, here it goes: I have been extremely busy with my classes and research project. After a few setbacks with integrating the supplement properly into the food medium, I finally succeeded by diluting the alpha-tocopherol with a 1:1 ratio of EtOH. The control groups for both OOC and AB-42 are doing well, albeit with some lateral medium shrinkage which trapped a few flies. However, the testing group with 100 micrograms of alpha-tocopherol is not doing as well as expected. The vast majority of AB-42 flies in the testing groups have died. The OOC testing groups are doing well, but not as well as the controls. Due to the supplement being oily, it has settled to the surface of the food medium despite dissolution in EtOH and frequent stirring as the food cooled. This extra-concentrated spot in the food could be killing the flies with an overdose.

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FutureMed, Day 4

Here is the last day:

Lucien Engelen was the first speaker today.  He emphasized the importance of listening to what patients have to say rather than making assumptions.  The only constant in healthcare is the patients.  In addition, remember the 7 + 7 rule:  Start now, +7 years graduate, +15 years before you have any authority as a provider.  Dr. Jack Kreindler came after him and his main point was to never underestimate the power of exponential advances and yourself.  Next was Bill Davenhell who said, “In health and sickness, everything happens somewhere”.  His point was that it is not only genes that determine what illness a patient may be more likely to contract, but also the environment that they are located in.  Certain locations carry specific health risks and healthcare providers need to enhance their data with a geological health record in order to properly allocate resources and specialists to proper locations.  Glen Tullman came afterwards and stated that the tools we need to improve the system already exist and it is only a matter of using them.  Then, another 4 doctors took the stage and said that we shouldn’t take “no” for an answer when it comes to improving healthcare.  Then, Jamie Heywood came to speak and had a rather alarming revelation which hits home in the field of study I happen to pursue, along with countless other students, professors, and providers:  50 to 80% of research results are insignificant.  This is due to a lack of quality control in trials.  We need double-blind, placebo-controlled experiments.  Plus, animal data does not always translate to humans.  As of 1998, there were ~98,000 medical errors made.  Now, there are around 210,000 potentially fatal errors made annually.  His main point was that if a person cannot measure something, they should not tout it as evidence.  We need to look at how engineers work and attempt to model our system after their methods.  Look at and narrow down our targets.  Also, make sure the results are measurable.

This conference was one of the best times of my life and I look forward to attending again at some point in the future.  There were many revelations triggered by these brilliant speakers and I saw many things in the current system that need changing.  The future is now and our generation of undergraduate students, with the help of the past generations of graduate students, medical students, professors, and doctors, will ensure that it will improve vastly from history and open our species up to a bright new age of science and progress that changes the human condition for the better.

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