During my first year at the University of Michigan, I participated in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Through the program I found a fantastic research mentor and lab to learn what takes and means to be a researcher. I knew that when my time in the UROP program ended, I wanted to continue to intern in that lab so that I could further develop the skills that I had acquired. The best way to achieve development of these skills was to come back to the lab for a summer internship so that everything was fresh in my mind and I would not be juggling time in the lab with taking classes.
So what is this research that I think so highly of all about? It’s in a cardiology laboratory in the Internal Medicine department of Michigan Medicine that studies the mechanisms of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). During the school year, I had been trained to use a pressure myograph, which can be used to model near physiological conditions of ex vivo blood vessels. To do these experiments, an artery was isolated from a rat and a 6mm segment excised and slid onto glass cannula. The vessel would then be pressurized and introduced to various molecules of interest to test the artery’s reactive ability. During the school year I had conducted these isolations and experiments using rat mesenteric arteries due to their ease of access, but ultimately the lab wanted to conduct experiments on pulmonary arteries (PA), as the PA is where PAH occurs. So as a result of this, my summer work is to be focused on finding a way to successfully isolate and mount the PA on the pressure myograph.
My first week in the lab was focused on planning out experiments and discussing potential techniques for the PA isolation, as there is very little literature on the subject. As far as we knew, we would be one of the only labs in the world trying to isolate and mount the PA on a pressure myograph. I was introduced to new students to join the lab for the summer and also reunited with everyone else that I had worked with previously. Overall, the lab a more relaxed feel. My first few days were light, I completed a Masson’s trichrome stain on rat lung tissue samples on glass slides, isolated RNA and DNA from human whole blood, and read a couple of research publications. The real interesting work, the attempt at isolating the PA, would be for the second week and beyond. I was definitely ready for the challenge and excited for the discoveries to be made!