Monday, November 24, 2014

URSP Student Anna Zhang Researches Inflammatory Cytokine Profiling in Morbidly Obese Patients

I first became involved during the fall semester of my sophomore year. That semester, I composed a literature review on quercetin (a common phytochemical) and its molecular mechanisms by which it mediates the inflammatory response. This is relevant to many chronic health conditions that are linked to an elevated systematic inflammation, such as obesity and atherosclerosis. This semester, I will be working experimentally, on inflammatory-cytokine profiling, utilizing the Bio-rad 27 Plex Assay, of adipose tissue and serum of obese patients to determine levels of inflammation in morbidly obese patients. The data resulting from these experiments would ultimately shed more light on the specific cytokines involved in obesity-induced inflammation, and would also help to perfect current techniques to detect local production of specific cytokines found in adipose.

As of now, my main focus is still on training under a senior PhD student, and assisting him on his project, which is closely related to my own with regards to laboratory techniques (qPCR, gel-electrophoresis, Bio-Plex Assay). This week, I have been assisting with four primer pair verification utilizing qPCR and gel-electrophoresis. My central responsibility (for now) is primer design for the CSF2 (colony stimulating factor-2) and CSF3 gene. The proteins encoded by these genes control the life-cycle of granulocytes and macrophages. It is believed that the overexpression of these genes is positively correlated with the low chronic inflammation found in visceral adipose tissue of obese patients. Since many genes have more than one transcript variants, the process of primer design includes reference to peer-reviewed literature to determine the most common transcript variants of each gene present in adipose tissue.

The most important discovery I have made this week is to be patient. A month ago, I would have never guessed that I would still be under training now. I am hopeful that just a little later, I will start handling my very own tissue samples, samples that will have my name on it. Overall, it has been a wonderful and a tremendously humbling experience working with scientists and students who have more experience than I.