Summer research on the mysteries of Lupus

By Pranay Reddy ’11

WINSTON-SALEM, NC—This summer I have done research at the Rheumatology lab at Wake Forest. I am working at the same location as last year but I have gained more responsiblity this year and can actually make an impact on the research. We are working with various Lupus phenotype mice that have various genes knocked out. Ultimately the Lupus phenotype mice are more prone to aterosclerosis, inflammation, skin disease and other lupus-like symptoms. We are mainly focusing on the cholesterol absorption of these mice in comparison to healthy, non-Lupus mice. We isolate the blood, and centrifuge it to seperate the blood from the plasma. We test the plasma for total cholesterol, free cholesterol, and triglyceride content. We also measure food intake by collecting the stool, and weighing both the mice and the food. The interesting discovery arises when we look at one particular phenotype. Because the paper is not yet published, my boss insists I keep the exact gene name quiet. Anyway, mice with this gene (enzyme) knocked out, seem to be protected against the increased cholesterol absorption witnessed in Lupus phenotype mice. Even when fed on high fat/high cholesterol diet, they’re cholesterol absorption/uptake remains normal if not decreased. This means that they’re essentailly protected from atherosclerosis, which is a huge compontent of Lupus. They take in less of the LDL (low density lipoprotein) which is termed “bad cholesterol.” This is currently where our research is focused and will be for some time. I have basically mastered the art of reverse transcriptase-PCR (examining gene expression by looking at levels of mRNA in a cell).   This lab is fixated with lipid and protein so I have also done many Western blots (examines amount of a protein of interest in a cell).

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