Summer Study: A Journey from Heart to Kidney
Yuliia Kashyrina
Sophomore
Pre-allied health major
Howard Community College, (Columbia, MD), class of 2020

My Research Project

When asked about the most vital organ in the body, most people would point out the heart without hesitation. It is indeed an essential pump that helps deliver oxygen and other nutrients from food to the body’s cells. The heart also helps fight infection and creates blood clots after injury. The principal function of the heart is maintaining solute circulation. When it comes to removing these solutes, the kidney kicks in. Without the kidney, the blood would accumulate metabolic waste made by the body as a result of your activities, drastically increasing the pressure in your blood vessels due to a large amount of solutes being added.

On a large scale, my project investigated a possible mechanism by which the body can function to lower your blood pressure. On a smaller scale, I investigated the effect that a hormone released by your heart can have on certain types of kidney cells.

Realities of Research

Working in a research lab was fun. Fresh out of school, I rejoiced in this great feeling of assuming responsibility (finally) for every part of the project from the experimental design and hypothesis, to implementation, statistical analysis and drawing conclusions. I learned how to passage cells into various flasks, petri dishes and transwell inserts, how and when to feed them andhow to freeze them. I also learned different techniques of fluorescent imaging which uses fluorescent dyes to label molecules of interest, protein concentration measuring techniques, measuring current/resistance of cells in transwells and measuring cellular oxygen consumption rate, which was essentially how certain cells “breathe.”

Even with a very insightful mentorship from senior personnel in the lab, it took some time to tailor every protocol so that my experiments would produce clear results. In some cases, an experiment was great in theory but challenging to reproduce. For example, when we attempted to track changes in the mitochondrial calcium in response to acute application of the drug using a fluorescent dye, the drug delivery technique would greatly affect the results. It is no doubt that this particular experiment required a little bit more work, but within the 10-week time frame of my fellowship that experiment did not make the priority list.

Life as a Scientist

The best—and probably the worst— part about doing research was sometimes having to come to the lab at 7 a.m. on a Sunday. At the same time, I was able to have proper time off work so I could start a new week fresh and well-rested. Sometimes, however, my curiosity led me back to the lab again and again. In the end, there were two main things that I got most out of this summer:

  1. I cannot expect immediate results in science; and
  2. no science would be possible without collaboration within and outside of lab.

I did a lot this summer, from reading articles so that I stayed on track with discoveries, watching others do procedures, attending meetings and journal clubs, making presentations—you name it! Working in basic research is definitely a lot more than making hypotheses and carrying out experiments.

Yuliia Kashyrina is a sophomore majoring in pre-allied health at Howard Community College in Columbia, Md. She completed the Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship (UGSRF) through the American Physiological Society during summer 2019 and worked under Dr. Daria Ilatovskaya at the Medical University of South Carolina, Division of Nephrology, in Charleston, SC. The UGSRF program was funded by the American Physiological Society. Yuliia is planning to transfer into biology/biological sciences to a four-year university in the fall of 2020 and seek an advanced degree in physiology upon completion of her bachelor’s degree.

Leave a Reply