URSP Student Emiko Ellis Researches the Potential of Curcumin as a Therapy for IPF
My name is Emiko Ellis and I am a junior studying biology, with a concentration in microbiology. I hope to go on to become a physician’s assistant, specializing in emergency medicine. I was first introduced to research when I started working with Dr. Geraldine Grant in Fall 2017 as my mentor for the Biology Research Semester. I initially took interest in her lab because she oversees a series of experiments on a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. I imagined it would be a perfect way to conduct research significant to modern medicine and improve my microbiology lab techniques. I applied to her lab and she offered to let me lead a project exploring the effects of Tylenol on fibroblasts derived from lungs with IPF. My research has become one of the most influential and fulfilling academic endeavors I have had the opportunity to experience. This semester I am exploring the therapeutic potential of curcumin, a naturally occurring compound found in turmeric that has many properties beneficial for the human body. Curcumin has been used for centuries as a holistic medicine, particularly in Asian countries. My Asian heritage has always played a role in my interest in Western science coinciding with and validating Eastern medicine, so the curcumin project has been engaging and culturally relevant. Every week I feed my fibroblast cells, grow them in the presence of curcumin and other compounds, and analyze their RNA. I use my results to determine what I want to challenge the fibroblasts with next, and I have learned new lab techniques like staining and imaging tissue samples to contribute to my results. The processes of qPCR and data analysis may be taxing, but my results often surprise me, reigniting my interest and curiosity. I have discovered that although many projects may end with rejecting the original hypotheses, the most essential part of research is using the information from the results to generate new questions, better techniques, and creative solutions.