Tuesday, December 8, 2015

URSP Student Brenna Cannon Researches Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF)

I began assisting in Dr. Geraldine Grant’s lab in the spring of my junior year. The research focuses on studying idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which is an interstitial lung disease. IPF is the result of massive overgrowth and survival of wound repairing, or activated, fibroblasts. There is no cure for it and the cause is unknown. After helping out in the lab for the rest of the spring semester, Dr. Grant suggested I try and start my own project through OSCAR, and I’m very glad she did! Together we decided that I would study the effect of transforming growth factor-beta, a protein naturally found in the body, on IPF fibroblasts versus normal lung fibroblasts.  

Throughout the semester, I am constantly taking care of fibroblast cells. They need to be fed every three to four days. It is also important to make sure that the fibroblasts are not too crowded, or confluent, and growing on top of each other. Checking the cells is a daily task when in the lab to keep them healthy and ready for when we need to use them. After the cells have been fed, they are usually serum starved (given media without nutrients) the day before being plated for tests to make sure all of the cells are in the same stage of mitosis. The following day I seed the cells in a 96-well plate and let them grow. After letting them grow on the plate for a day, I add different concentrations of the growth factor to wells in the plate. A reagent is added to the plate after 44, 96, and 144 hours to determine how much the cells have proliferated and grown. The plates are read using a plate reader at a certain wavelength, and then, the data can be analyzed!

This project has really taught me a lot about research and all of the work involved in it. I learned how important it is to use all of the information at my disposal and to be flexible when things don’t go as expected. Research can be hard, but it is, without a doubt, rewarding. The other day, I was showing my data to a friend and he asked, “Is this what’s supposed to happen?” I realized there is no right answer that I’m trying to find. The data I collect are my findings for my specific research, and that is what I love so much about doing research. Hopefully, I can continue research throughout my life. I eventually would like to get a degree in medicine, but research is not something I would want to push to the side. I hope to be involved in it as much as I possibly can!