August 6, 2011 9:24:00 PM
This summer, a few Mississippi University for Women students worked alongside their professor conducting research with hopes of finding a better treatment for cystic fibrosis.
The protein research laboratory set up by Dr. Ghanshyam Heda, assistant professor of biology, was made possible through a research award from the National Institutes of Health as a part of the Mississippi IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence Projects and The University of Southern Mississippi.
"I was able to assemble some key equipment that is the first of its kind here on campus," said Heda. "For example, my research laboratory is capable of doing tissue culture of human and mammalian cells. We can isolate cell organelles and prepare samples for protein identification."
Instead of using animals to conduct research, Heda and his three summer research interns tested different drugs on human cells. The cells, which were obtained from a cystic fibrosis patient, are able to be maintained in the lab.
Cystic fibrosis is described as a common hereditary disease that causes mucus build up in the lungs and digestive tract. It affects about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide), according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
One of those full-time researchers was junior Upasana Kunwar of Nepal, who is majoring in biology and mathematics at MUW.
She said the experience has been invaluable.
"I have learned about scientific equipment. Back home, we don''t have this type of modern equipment. I have learned so much by being in an actual lab."
Dominique Robinson, who graduated from Clarksdale High School, is a senior biology/pre-med major.
"I hope this experience will help me get into medical school," she said. "I''m glad that I did not have to go to another school to get research experience."
Rajiv Heda, a rising senior at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science and Heda''s son, was excited about the opportunity to work with a college professor and students.
"This is a test drive for my career," he said, noting an interest in biochemistry.
Heda is continuing research where he left it off at his previous position at The University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center at Memphis, where he is still holding a joint appointment as the professor of medicine.
"We are hoping that eventually we will find some better treatment for the patients," Heda said. "We have made some significant contributions in the past 15 years."
MUW''s Sciences and Mathematics Department has two more laboratories that are NIH funded and training undergraduate and high school students. The labs are run by Dr. Lauren Brandon, associate professor of microbiology and Emma Sadler Moss Chair, and Dr. Ross Whitwam, professor of biology.