Just “dropping a line” from the Staab Lab!

Hello, world!  This is Sophia Fricke reporting in from the Staab Lab.  So far, summer research is off to a great start.  Now, by the end of our second week, we are in full swing and are easily falling in to the rhythm of our days.  By the same token, every day is a new adventure and we can never quite predict what it will bring.  This, I feel, is the nature of discovery, and it keeps us on our toes.

Paola (left) and Sophia (right) cleaning the lab

Paola (left) and Sophia (right) cleaning the lab

Our lab group has developed a great sense of camaraderie and collaboration, and we’re learning to work as a team, while each of us is specifically pursuing different and unique research questions.  Maybe I’m biased, but I think the project that I’m working on is one of the coolest that I’ve encountered!  Right now, I’m working on identifying and classifying new types of cartilage and connective tissue in fish, with the long term goal of applying our findings to human medicine (i.e., treatments for arthritis) in the future.  To do this, I will use a technique called immunohistochemical analysis to detect different proteins and fibers that make up different areas of tissue.  Basically, this means that I will use antibodies that bind to different proteins, such as collagen type II, to stain samples different colors that I can use to distinguish the molecular makeup of tissue.

Since many bones develop from cartilage precursors, and develop in response to external forces, I’m also curious about how ossification might change in response to different forces. My first specific experiment will be to look at the mechanisms of cartilaginous ossification/mineralization in zebrafish, using tanks with varying levels of viscosity.  My hypothesis is that I’ll see increased amounts of ossification in the fish living in more viscous water.  I will use a fluorescent Calcein stain to determine the amount of calcium ions in matrix at multiple points of time during the development of the fish.

Zebrafish – from http://vetmed.duhs.duke.edu/GeneralProgramInfo.html

This experiment will function as a baseline for my knowledge of cartilaginous ossification, and will provide a springboard for future work.  Once I know which types of cartilage are more likely to ossify, and how, I will be able to move forward with testing different methods of molecular inhibition of excess ossification.  While this would be done preliminarily in vitro, the goal would be to later test it in zebrafish, before finally bringing forward a new type of treatment to the medical world for osteoarthritis.  This technique would not only be minimally invasive, moreover, it would also prove to be a significant step forward in the field of advanced tissue engineering.

I know I’m only two weeks in to my summer research at McDaniel, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  However, I firmly believe that vision is necessary for any achievements or advances in science.  So for now, I’m going to stick with “reeling myself in” to address one step of my first experiment at a time, and look forward to welcoming some new baby zebrafish to our lab!

And finally… a joke so terrible that you might even laugh!

EPE Research: Keep Breathing!

“Keep breathing!”

Dr. McCole rolls his eyes, convinced that telling someone to breathe won’t help them run any further. Emma defends her statement, arguing that it encourages deeper breathing and increased oxygen supply. Kerrin wavers between stances, seeing the redundancy of an obvious statement but unable to disprove Emma’s theory. Matt starts using scientific terms that no one is prepared to comprehend at this early hour. Kaitlyn and Allison continue to encourage the participant. Alicia laughs…. And Dr. McKenzie and Dr. Laird ignore us all, discussing the training protocol we will start on June 2nd.

Sydney Flores -VO2This is what EPE summer research has revolved around this first week. Six students and three professors collaborating to explore the differences between high-intensity interval training and traditional aerobic training over a three-week training program.

These first two weeks make up our pre-testing phase of research in which we recruit participants and create a performance baseline comprised of a questionnaire/health history, underwater weighing for body composition, VO2max testing on a treadmill, and an endurance run at the established VO2max.

This week has taught us a few key things:

  • We love working as a team! It didn’t take long to discover that this self-proclaimed “HIIT team” has great cohesiveness, camaraderie, and chemistry. This wouldn’t be nearly as fun without each other.
  • On the first day, “crash course” is a real thing. You feel as if you just learned an entire semester’s worth of information. From compiling literature reviews to learning each test procedure, our brains were thoroughly saturated at the end of the first day.
  • Our learning curves are huge! We’ve gotten very good at things we do not usually do very quickly, including: taking blood pressure at rest and directly following exercise, taking small blood samples for lactate measures, running various programs on the computers for the different tests, and speaking professionally to participants in the study.
  • Dr. McKenzie loves running multiple VO2max tests… Just kidding!

Breathing is an essential part of HIIT Team’s first week of research. Whether it’s making sure enough air is blown out in underwater weighing, getting your maximal oxygen intake in each of the two run tests, or the research team taking a deep breath over the course of our long days, we just keep breathing!

We’re looking forward to next week, where we will continue pre-testing and begin placing participants into the different training programs! Tune in next week to read about the end of the pre-testing phase!

Thanks for reading! HIIT Team signing off!

Summer 2014!

The 2014 summer science blog is live, and things are already happening!  This year the Jacobs, Parrish, McKenzie/McCole/Laird, Mitschler, Huang, and Staab labs will ALL be blogging, so stay tuned!