We've been a bit silent since the end of the semester as many of our RISE scholars have gone off for their summer research experiences at PhD-granting institutions. Missives have been slow coming in while the students become familiar with their summer projects. Today, the illustrious Victoria Jones shares with us her current experience at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
I’m Victoria Jones, a rising NCCU sophomore chemistry major from Raleigh, North Carolina. My ultimate aspiration is to earn an MD/PhD.
This summer I’m currently participating in the American Heart Association’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (AHA-SURF) program at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It is a ten-week program that allows us to conduct research and present our findings via poster presentations at the final Research Symposium.
On June 1st, 2011, I joined the labs of Dr. Mary Lott and Dr. Kerstin Bettermann in the Heart and Vascular Institute and Department of Neurology, respectively. We are studying the effects of diabetes and pre-diabetes on the microvasculature of the eye, brain, and heart – and how the blood vessel functions are correlated. Penn State Hershey is the second institution in the United States to own a Dynamic Vessel Analyzer (DVA), an eye device that can take static pictures and dynamic responses of blood vessels in the eye to different stimuli. It is important to study these three vessel beds (eye, brain, and heart) because abnormalities in just eye vessels in response to certain stimuli could potentially be a viable marker in detecting brain and heart disease in diabetes and pre-diabetes subjects.
A normal study consists of the patient fasting for the past 8 hours, giving a blood sample to measure glucose, insulin, lipid, and inflammation (hs-CRP) levels, and having an intraocular pressure taken of their eye to test for glaucoma. Women of child-bearing age will have a urine pregnancy test to ensure they are not pregnant.
We place a blood pressure cuff on the subject’s upper arm, another blood pressure measuring device on the middle finger (a finapress), 4 EKG patches on the body, and a pulse oximeter on the index finger. A respiratory gas monitor will measure the CO2 levels as the patient continuously exhales through the breathing device. The patient’s eye with best acuity is dilated with one drop of 1% tropicamide to allow for the measuring of eye vessels with the DVA during each of the stimuli.
While eye vessels are being measured continuously via video, patients breathe 100% oxygen (hyperoxia) for 5 minutes. After a 5-10 minute recovery, the patients breathe a mixture of 5% carbon dioxide/21% oxygen/74% nitrogen (hypercapnia) for 5 minutes. After another 5-10 minute recovery, patients are asked to breath quickly for one minute (hyperventilate) to the beat of a metronome, then hold their breath as long as possible (~30 seconds). At this point, still pictures will be taken. Patients will breathe the 100% oxygen again, and four minutes into to this stimulus, still pictures of eye vessels will be obtained. The final stimulus is a retinal flicker light produced by the DVA. Subjects will focus on a needle in the eye camera during the flicker, and will continue to focus during the 80 second recovery. This flicker stimulus procedure will repeat twice more.
To test the vessel reactivity and blood velocity in the heart and brain, patients will lie on a table and repeat the previous procedure while using a doppler ultrasound.
Penn State Hershey recently received the Clinical and Translational Science Award, a prestigious $27.3 million, five-year research grant. From the press release:
This competitive Clinical and Translational Science Award will support the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), a collaboration of many Penn State colleges and institutes, along with community and industry partners, devoted to using their research and outreach expertise to improve the health of Pennsylvanians.
The Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program, from the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources, supports a national consortium of medical research institutions designed to transform how biomedical research is conducted. Its goals are to speed the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, to engage communities in clinical research efforts, and to train a new generation of clinical and translational researchers.
The NIH announced today that Penn State is among five organizations selected in this final round of initial awards of the CTSA program, which provides support to organizations with the demonstrated commitment and expertise necessary to deliver on the promise of improved health, and one of only three in Pennsylvania to receive a CTSA since the program’s inception in 2006.
I am proud of where I work!!
I look forward to continuing this research and hope to share my findings and experiences from this summer with you.
Have a great summer!
NCCU Class of 2014