research

I really feel like my summer research actually made a good contribution to society.

It’s pretty hard for me to understand exactly what I did and it’s even harder for me to try to explain it, but here goes nothing.

Schizophrenia is a really devastating psychotic disorder and my lab works to understand, treat, and eventually cure it. To study schizophrenia in rats, we use the methylazoxymethanol acetate (MAM) model that gives rats lots of deficits that are consistent with human schizophrenia patients. Positive symptoms of schizophrenia, like hallucinations and delusions, are normally the most detrimental symptoms.

These positive symptoms are thought to be caused by and increase in dopamine in the ventral tegmental area of brain. Through a very complex pathway through many brain regions, we have specified that it is likely that this increase in dopamine is caused by a decrease in parvalbumin in another brain region, the ventral hippocampus. Parvalbumin (PV) is an interneuron that acts as the breaks on the complex pathway, which leads to an increase in dopamine.

My lab has already supported this theory with data from males, so it was my job to get data from females, as girls tend to have more frequent and more severe positive symptoms. Long story short, I surgically implanted electrodes into little rat brains and recorded the action field potentials in the ventral hippocampus. Then I filtered the electrophysiology recording to show only gamma waves, which are produced by PV. We found less PV in MAM (schizophrenic) rats than in control rats, which would lead to their positive symptoms.

I also preformed western blots on tissue dissected from brains of sacrificed animals. These quantified the amount of PV tissue seen in female mice throughout their estrus cycle, which is comparable to a human menstrual cycle. We found that MAM rats overall had less PV amounts than control rats and an increase in PV in both control and MAM rats during estrus.

This information is really exciting because it supports my lab’s previous theory and their previous data. Using this information, Lodge has created a method of stem cell therapy that increases the amount of PV in the ventral hippocampus and relieves the positive symptoms of schizophrenia in MAM rats. He is moving on to phase two as is testing for side effects in monkeys, and the results are looking very promising. He is already putting together a panel of human patients for a clinical trial of his therapy.

So basically, I cured schizophrenia this summer.

I mean not really me and not really cured and it sure wasn’t all done in a summer I  just got here at the right time but man, it was an incredibly cool experience to be part of the discovery process to make a therapy that can help millions of people. It was pretty damn fulfilling work.

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me after my first neurosurgery on a rat // 7/10 of my rats lived … rip sal 1, sal 2, and mam 1

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me and my rats before they get behavioral testing // all they have to do is dig around for cheerios

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i did so many western blots that the company started sending me inspirational messages //

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just slicing up tiny rat brains at -24 celcius // using the big girl cyrostat 

 

 

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