This week I thought I’d talk more about what my specific project is and what I hope to gain from it. It was nice because when I first heard about this project, I was able to understand all the concepts being discussed because of classes I’ve taken here at the University of Minnesota! My project deals with alternative splicing factors in a signaling molecule known as Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). Usually VEGF has been associated with pro-angiogenic properties, which means that it’s known to help blood vessel development in humans, however there have been high levels of VEGF found in SLE patients as well as Systemic Sclerosis (SSc) patients, which is why this is a joint study with Dr. Jerry Molitor and his sclerosis clinics.
These findings didn’t make sense because common symptoms in patients with these diseases were linked to anti-angiogenic properties, which means a lack of blood vessel formation. Through research, it was discovered that there is a differing isoform of VEGF called VEGF165b that does exhibit these anti-angiogenic properties. The problem then became a way of distinguishing between these forms, since they are so similar and differ only by one distal splice site on exon 8. To solve this, we will be creating an ELISA sandwich detection assay which can detect VEGF165b and exclude VEGF from the observed results. To do this, we have to run control plasma and serum samples that has been spiked with known amounts of each isoform to test if this test even works at distinguishing between the two isoforms. Once we know that it is working properly, we can start running SLE and SSc patient samples to look for detectable levels of VEGF165b.
I’m so excited to be in the midst of this project, we just got the control samples back and it looks like the test is actually working! That means we can now move on to testing patient samples.