I am excited to begin working in the lab next week! I spent this week completing safety training modules, signing paperwork, and researching what is currently happening in the lab. My external advisor is confident that I will get good exposure to bench and translational cardiovascular science and a smattering of clinical science as well. I am really looking forward to learning about translational science, because it is what my senior project aims to use when analyzing drug-eluting stent research.
Translational science is an interdisciplinary field that aims to improve the global healthcare system. Essentially “translation” of laboratory setting discoveries into possible treatments or prevention for disease
The Conte Lab at UCSF focuses on investigating new drug compounds that will improve the healing response of blood vessels after the insertion of a heart stent.
Restenosis is defined as the repeat narrowing of a coronary artery. This re-narrowing is caused by inflammation healing response (similar to wound healing) that cells activate once injured by a stent
The lab specifically looks at molecular pathways involved in the growth of endothelial and smooth muscle cells.
Endothelial cells function to inhibit inflammation and smooth muscle proliferation and migration. Vascular smooth muscle cells migrate and proliferate when injured and are viewed as a crucial part of restenosis causes
Their translational research methodology uses animal models (rats!) and humans. They also do clinical studies on patients undergoing treatment for cardiovascular disease. The number of their publications is infinite and their research is extensive, so I will highlight what I found topical and interesting.
When a stent injures an artery wall two things happen: 1. Compounds that promote inflammation are generated 2. Different compounds that stop the inflammation are generated. In 2015, the Conte Lab discovered that compounds in fish oil can stop the re-blocking of arteries after stent placement. This idea may seem fishy at first but was
unexpectedly successful considering that fish oil contains eicosa- pentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both are compounds that are precursors for signaling compounds in the anti-inflammatory response. The lab is still working on a device to deliver these compounds in stented arteries.
EPA and DHA are two omega-3 fatty acids and are naturally produced compounds in fish oil
Reading about the lab research that I will be participating in has made me amend my intended project slightly. Instead of only determining which drugs are effective in stents that are currently available to patients, I will also explore compounds (may not necessarily be drugs) that are still being clinically tested in the lab. I will be able to provide a more comprehensive study about not only the status quo of the stent world, but also the rapidly emerging field of research in vascular biology.