Faculty Name:
Stavros Drakos

Internal Medicine

Faculty College:


Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2021 begins on May 26 and ends on August 5. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2021 application.**

Ischemic heart disease and heart failure HF is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Activated myofibroblast induced by injury or heart diseases adversely affects the cardiac function by depositing excess extracellular matrix and remodel the structure of myocardium resulting in increased stiffness and reduced compliance of cardiac muscle. Currently there are no effective interventions that specifically attenuate or reverse pathological cardiac fibrosis. To identify and quantify the cellular populations that correlated with quiescent and activated cardiac fibroblasts, we performed single cell RNA sequencing of non-myocytes from human non-failing hearts (donor hearts that were not allocated for transplant for non-cardiac related reasons) and failing hearts (HF). RNA expression profiles showed 2 distinct clusters characteristic of fibroblasts and myofibroblasts respectively in HF whereas non-failing heart donor reveal only one cluster of quiescent fibroblasts. The goal of this project is to investigate the molecular activation of quiescent cardiac fibroblast to myofibroblast based on the differential expression profile observed in human normal fibroblast, HF fibroblast, and myofibroblast. We will use ischemic heart model in mice to analyze expression of candidate proteins that correlated with the activation of myofibroblast after myocardial injury. The RNA inhibitor and overexpression strategies will be utilized to explore the mechanism of candidate genes in myofibroblast activation of primary cultured cardiac fibroblast.

The stipend for this SPUR project is funded by an American Heart Association grant awarded to Dr. Stavros Drakos, MD, PhD. The stipend for this project is $4,000 instead of $5,000 due to grant funding limitations.

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

The student will assist in the procedures that generate ischemic injury in mouse model. The role of student includes collecting and processing the tissue specimens from animal models in the experiments. The responsibility will include tissue sectioning and immunofluorescence staining of control and ischemic myocardial tissue samples. The project activities will involve isolation and culture of primary fibroblast and gene specific modification. Since the project involves surgical procedure in mice, the student will assist with basic husbandry of the mice.

Student Benefits:

A great advantage of working in Dr. Drakos' lab specifically is that student will gain exceptional experiences in different areas of biomedical research, both basic and translational science. Student will have plenty of hands-on experiences in conducting laboratory research and learn a great deal about pathological fibrosis involvement in mechanisms of human disease. Since the student is required to present progress report in weekly lab meeting, he/she will have the learning experience in critical evaluation of the data, communication skills, and problem solving. The learning experience from this project will help and encourage the undergraduate student to prepare for research related career and professional development to become a scientist or physician devoted to evidence based medicine.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 26, 2021, and ends August 5, 2021

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2021 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2021 and not graduating before December 2021; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but might not be able to be compensated. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at an American institution of higher education and verify with your institution’s international center that your visa allows you to participate in this program, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 26-August 5, 2021). 4) at least 18 years old by May 24, 2021 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing). Please note that no previous college coursework or previous research experience is required.