Thursday, May 2, 2013

URSP Student Andrew Cedeno Investigates the Toxicity of Carbon Nanotubes on Lung Macrophages

My motivation for this project was to gain research experience in the medical field. This project to investigate the toxicity of carbon nanotubes on lung macrophages was the perfect opportunity to get hands on experience performing cell culture and assays. From the beginning my principal investigator told that this type of research is very challenging and requires many hours of commitment. In the two months that I have been working on this project I have learned skills that are reserved for pH candidates and the like. The first three weeks of the semester I was becoming familiar with the equipment and procedures until eventually now I can work without supervision. Aside from Dr. Salvador Morales, the principal investigator, I am the only other person working on this project. I have been endowed with a lot responsibility which is helping me grow as a scientist. I treat this project very professionally and I consider it as my job. In addition, I have a learn the lab more technical skills than in any lab for my science classes. The experiment has to be completed entirely by myself for the most part. I have to apply biology, chemistry, and mathematics concepts I have learned in my biomedical engineering major. I have to be on top of everything and plan out all the procedures in advance to prevent any problems. The toughest part of the project is that there is no set schedule. Each experiment is unique and can take any amount of hours. Sometimes I have to stay until late at night or come on the weekends to continue the experiment procedures. Therefore, I have to plan everything ahead of time to avoid scheduling conflicts with my classes. Nonetheless, the project is very rewarding and I learn skills that are priceless and that I cannot learn in a classroom setting.

In brief, my project consists of 4 main experiments leading to the Nitric Oxide Assay that will evaluate the levels of toxicity. First, I have to grow cells in an incubator. After at least 3-4 days, I will have enough alveoli macrophages to plate them in a 96-well plate. Twenty four hours later, I have to synthesize 7 ligands that I will use as conditions to assess the levels of toxicity associated with Surfactant Protein A and Carbon Nanotubes on the cells. Consequently, I have to add the ligands to the cells in the plate. The next day, the cells are ready to be tested in a Nitric Oxide Assay that measure the light absorbance to analyze the toxicity associated with each condition. the The entire experiment takes about a week and a half to complete. In order to affirm the results and to confirm reproducibility, I have conducted the experiment 3 times already and gotten very similar results.

Moreover, this project is preparing for medical school by becoming expose to laboratory research and being able to handle school work and a job with great results on both sides. My dream is to become a surgeon and doing the cell culture experiment, the ligand addition, and the nitric oxide assays are helping becoming very skillful with my hands. Pipetting is like an art and everyday I am becoming more competent. As a doctor I have to be as meticulous and responsible as I am with this experiment because the stakes are higher and human lives are on the line. Furthermore, the next phase of the project is to publish the results. I have started doing the a review of recent works related to my project. Getting exposed to other scientific works and helping write this paper will provide me the opportunity of being a published author and also be able to present my research my many conferences nationally and internationally.