Stemming Beyond the Brain

This summer, I am very thankful to be a recipient of the Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship (UGSRF). This fellowship has given me the opportunity to conduct research under the guidance of Dr. Justin Grobe at the University of Iowa. My research project studies the role of AT1a receptors on the vasopressin-producing cells found in the hypothalamus region of the brain.

Vasopressin (AVP) is a hormone, produced in the magnocellular neurons within the hypothalamus, playing a key role in maintaining homeostasis. This hormone maintains homeostasis by increasing blood pressure through upregulation of water reabsorption and vasoconstriction. The AT1a receptor responds to high levels of angiotensin II, ANGII, by constricting the cells with AT1a as part of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, RAAS. A previous study conducted in our lab has shown AT1a receptor localization on vasopressin-producing cells in the supraoptic nucleus of the hypothalamus1. In order to observe the role of AT1a receptors, the experiment compared the response of AT1aAVP-KO mice with control mice under the ICV infusion of ANGII or aCSF at 50ng/hr. Specifically, I am looking for responses in water-intake, urine output, blood pressure, and vasopressin secretion. This experiment will provide further insights to understand AVP secretion in response to brain RAAS and could potentially help prevent hypertension, exhibited patients with obesity, diabetes, and/or preeclampsia.

Figure 1: qPCR machine for gene expression analysis

I have learned many valuable skills from conducting research over the course of this summer thanks to my awesome mentors and principal investigator. They have devoted their time to teach me how to use Excel in analyzing the results of specific qPCR gene expressions and creating protocols for many experiments utilized in the lab. Nevertheless, there are many other essential skills that I have yet to learn such as interpreting results, reading scientific journals, and other lab protocols. They are important in all aspects of research but honing in these skills will require time and practice. For instance, several experiments that I performed yielded poor results and required additional extra time devoted towards troubleshooting the problem. Although frustrating at times, I have learned troubleshooting is one of the most important skills in research because not all the experiments will yield the desired results. While learning and refining my skills, the research project has progressed into the final stages towards completion and I am very excited to find out what results from the samples reveal regarding the role of AT1A receptors.

Figure 2: Tail-cuff system setup for blood pressure measurement

As a member of the lab during this summer, I have gained an insight into becoming a scientist. Every morning is devoted towards measuring the blood pressure in the mice cohorts, which need the measurements to be taken daily for three weeks prior to the surgery and two weeks after. The afternoon is spent performing qPCRs on specific genes from tissues collected earlier, analyzing data, learning new protocols, and/or reading publications pertaining to my research area. There are many basic aspects that scientists value greatly such as labeling tubes, checking the timer, and pipetting the exact amount of solutions. The focus on minute details is a trait developed over the years dedicated towards conducting research, and I have definitely noticed improvements in my attention to detail since I first began conducting research. In the next couple of weeks, I will have the opportunity to collect, organize, and analyze the results during the finals days of this experiment. I would like to again thank APS for the opportunity to conduct research at the University of Iowa this summer.


  1. Linggonegoro D, Sandgren J, Claflin K, Perschbacher K, Ni J, Pearson N, Pierce G, Santillan M, Grobe J. Physiological Significance of Angiotensin AT1A Receptors in Vasopressin-Producing Cells of the Supraoptic Nucleus. Experimental Biology.
  2. Guyton AC, Hall JETextbook of Medical Physiology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company, 2010.
I am rising junior at the University of Iowa, majoring in biomedical engineering. I will be pursuing a biomechanics and biomaterials track with an interest in implant design and drug delivery. This summer, I had the opportunity to conduct research under my principal investigator, Dr. Justin Grobe, with the assistance of UGSRF fellowship funding by the American Physiological Society. My project investigated the role of AT1a receptors on the vasopressin-producing cell in cardiometabolic control.

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