Wednesday, September 28, 2016

URSP Student Naomi Coles Investigates the Effects that Childhood Obesity has on Bone Mineralization

My project is investigating the effects that childhood obesity has on bone mineralization. I did not come into research with a project in mind, I just knew that after my stepfather passed away of colorectal cancer my freshman year of college, that I wanted to know if I was interested enough in research to want to pursue finding ways to preventing colorectal cancer medically. It was after talking to my introduction to nutrition professor, Dr. Sina Gallo, about potential research opportunities that she informed me of this project where I could analyze data from her larger project to find out if childhood obesity has an effect on bone mineralization.

This project was instantly interesting to me as I am pursuing a career in medicine, in hopes of becoming a Pediatrician. Knowing that this project would allow me to exclusively evaluate data for children I knew that the results from this research could be beneficial for me when entering the medical field. In addition, being able to work on this project and carrying out the research process will allow me to evaluate how much interest I have in research and whether I can do clinical research on colorectal cancer and ways to prevent it in the future.

Throughout the semester, what I do on a weekly basis changes. At the beginning of my project, most of what I did involved preparing for data collection and collecting data. I would assist several professors and graduate students in an intervention known as the Child Health Exercise and Wellness study. This study is a lifestyle intervention program geared toward treating childhood diabetes in Hispanic families. Here I would be present during 24-hour food recall interviews, collect anthropometric data, and assist with the dual x-ray absorptiometry for bone and adipose tissue data. Currently, I am analyzing that data by categorizing the data in tables and running the appropriate statistical tests to obtain results. I mainly run the statistical tests on my own after discussing appropriate testing with my mentor. During the time that I am not meeting with my mentors, I am analyzing the statistical results and writing up the results found. Currently, I am finalizing my poster to present at OSCAR’s Summer Research Celebration.

One thing that I discovered this week is that, the results we would expect are actually the opposite. For example, when graphing the data, it seems as though with an increase in Calcium consumption there is a decrease in bone mass density. Of course analysis is still taking place.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

URSP Student Shaun Meyer Detects Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

My name is Shaun Meyer and I am in my last year of Undergraduate Bioengineering degree.  My overriding reason for studying Bioengineering is to work on medical problems through quantitative analysis that affect large populations of patients.  I am driven to make a meaningful effect on the chronically sick population through Biomedical and Engineering methods, because I have lived through so many of the closest people in my life dying, due to lack of effective diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. 

I was given an opportunity early in 2016 to work with one of my most respected Bioengineering Professors.  Dr. Sikdar asked me if I would like to work with him at the Biomedical Imaging Lab, specifically working on some previously collect Ultrasound Liver d  I was very excited to be working on any project with Dr. Sikdar, and I accepted without hesitation.  In January of 2016, I had no experience with Liver, or Ultrasound, so I knew I would have to start my literature review immediately.  My research really started well before the summer, and I found that many Americans and Europeans suffer from something called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).  This disease at its most severe stage is known as Cirrhosis of the liver.  I had previously believed that Cirrhosis can only occur in people whom are alcoholics.  In case, fatty or alcohol caused Cirrhosis, is permanent, and the only treatment is Liver Transplant. 

My project was focused on detecting a much less severe case of NAFLD, commonly called Simple Fatty Liver.  There are no outward symptoms, and no reliable blood tests for this condition.  However, NAFLD has been linked to metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular/coronary artery disease (CVD/CAD).  Patients with these conditions should be preemptively screened for Simple Fatty Liver.  Currently, clinical diagnosis relies on subjective Radiologist opinions of what the Ultrasound scans look like.  During this summer, I have been testing and implementing Quantitative Ultrasound Techniques that can definitively and objectively detect simple fatty liver in patients at risk for CAD. 

I plan to continue working on this project for the remainder of my GMU career, and my hope for this research is that earlier and more effective screening for NAFLD can be accomplished and utilized clinically.