A Summer Research Project in Veterinarian Medicine Week 1
I am excited to share my summer research experience
with you! My name is Natalie Punt and I am a soon-to-be second year veterinarian student at Western University College of Veterinarian Medicine in Pomona, California.
Being a veterinarian student is a challenging and rewarding
endeavor. As a future veterinarian I am responsible for the health of every species but one. Because veterinarian medicine naturally
Prior to attending veterinarian school I knew I was interested in biomedical research for the opportunity to study animals and pursue my passion for scientific discovery. With that self-knowledge I naturally gravitated towards the campus research community. By the first semester I found a mentor with similar interests in comparative genetics and had access to many mammalian annotated and sequenced genomes.
True to the nature of science- my initial research
project bears no resemblance to my current project however they are intrinsically linked. My initial research project was elucidating the genetics behind high altitude adaptation in the Snow Leopard. Yet my current project is focused on identifying the anti-cancer genetics of the Naked Mole Rat.
They both live at low oxygen tensions and have adapted to hypoxic environments by modifying a histone methyltransferase that regulates the expression of genes during blood production. Through this modification the body can adapt to functioning at lower oxygen levels.
If you have ever heard of the Naked Mole Rat (NMR)- you won’t forget it. It is an unusual rodent of East Africa that lives 10x longer than expected in a eusocial hierarchy under ground does not recognize chemical pain due to defective Substance P production and is resistant to spontaneous cancers.
The last point about NMR captured my attention. How can any animal on earth be resistant to cancer?? I’ve always been taught that the hallmarks of cancer represent dysregulation of natural cell processes. A chance to solve the anti-cancer mechanism of the NMR was a delicious opportunity that I’m not going to pass up.
Having a problem to solve is the first step in research- however in research having a problem to solve is like having a freckle, everyone has one. The greater challenge is finding funding. Fortunately our school has several student grants available through the university research department and veterinarian medicine companies.
I submitted a grant proposal to identify proteins responsible for the NMR anti-cancer phenotype by comparing the cancer associated proteins of the NMR to similar proteins found in species that get cancer such as human, mouse and dog. I was lucky enough to receive funding through Merial/Merck to further pursue the underlying genotype of the NMR’s anti-cancer phenotype.
With financial support we are able to boldly adventure into the genome of the NMR to elucidate its anti-cancer mechanism.
---- Enjoy this picture of the Naked Mole Rat.----