Wanted: Obese, Diabetic Mice
Emma Anderson ’17 has always been fascinated by biology. She is planning to pursue a graduate degree in a nutrition-related field, and hopes to have a positive impact on the health and well-being of others through her career. This summer, Anderson was selected for the Summer Student Program at The Jackson Laboratory, a non-profit biomedical research institution located in Bar Harbor, Maine. It’s been a great opportunity for her to explore her interests and learn about the potential career path of a biomedical researcher.
Anderson is working on two research projects under the advisement of Dr. Karen Svenson: The Effects of High-fat Diets with Varied Carbohydrate Content on the Development of Diabetes in Obese Mouse Models, and Determination of the Mutation Responsible for the Tachycardiac Phenotype of ENU Mutant Strain HLB468.
The carbohydrate diet study was conducted on mice of both sexes from genetically distinct strains. Experimental groups were fed diets with varied carbohydrate and fat content, and several physiological parameters indicative of the diabetic phenotype were measured. Upon analysis of the data, it is expected that variations in the response to the different diets among strains and sexes will be revealed.
In order to analyze the large data set generated by the carbohydrate diet study, Anderson will use statistical analysis software to derive summary statistics for all experimental groups and perform comparisons and correlations between groups. She is curious as to what the results will reveal following analysis of the data, in terms of which experimental groups developed diabetes, and whether low-carbohydrate diets are effective at preventing the development of the disease.
Interestingly, this is not Anderson’s first time working with the diabetic mouse model. Last summer, she conducted research at Hamilton under the Silas D. Childs Professor of Biology David Gapp, investigating the physiology of diabetes in mice, for which they utilized mice from the Jackson Laboratory. The research group examined the effect of the “Western diet,” which is characterized by an elevated intake of refined sugars and saturated fats, on the body weight, blood glucose levels, and hormone levels of both diabetic and non-diabetic mice.
Along with the diet study, Anderson has also been conducting research to determine the mutation that is responsible for tachycardia, or an elevated heart rate, in the mutant strain HLB468. So far she has determined the likely causal mutation for tachycardiac phenotype in the mutant strain, and is now helping to prepare a manuscript that will report this novel mouse mutant for tachycardia. Since this is a novel mouse mutation, it adds a new mouse model to the study of cardiac conductance and tachycardia.
Anderson is excited to be gaining experience analyzing a long-term diet study with statistical analysis software. She is also glad to be gaining exposure to research techniques and tools used to assess the phenotype and genotype of mice, such as Echo MRI, blood chemistry, electrocardiogram tests, PCR, and DNA sequence analysis software. “Participation in this program is a tremendous opportunity for me to conduct research in areas that are very applicable to my academic and career interests, which include nutrition, epidemiology and genetics,” she noted.