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Introducing Kim, Lupus Ambassador

Introducing Kim, Lupus Ambassador

Hello everyone! I’m Kim, one of the 2012 Lupus Ambassadors for LFM. We may have even met at the Twin Cities, Rochester and Duluth Lupus Walks for Hope, or at the Lupus Night at Target Field this past year.

For those of us living with lupus, 2012 has been an exciting year filled with hope, amazing awareness efforts, breakthroughs in research and increased public donations to find a cure. I’ve seen this on a national level, but quite extensively here in our own state. It’s not just the turkey talking when I say how grateful I am! I feel truly blessed when I think of all the hard work the LFM staff, board of directors, volunteers and researchers have provided this year. So to all of you making a difference, thank you.

A little bit about myself … I just celebrated my 44th birthday this week. Those yearly milestones on the calendar have taken on a whole new meaning during my adult ...

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Kim Zink
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Introducting Gwen, Lupus Ambassador

Introducting Gwen, Lupus Ambassador

My name is Gwen Alexander and I’ve been diagnosed with lupus since 2006. I’m pretty confident I’ve been living with it most of my life but just not knowing. I’m a divorced mother of a 16-year-old dancer, wannabe actress/model/chef/beautician. I’ve been dating the same man for about 10 years and for now I’m working full time and I am currently the Ambassador for the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota (LFM). I’ve spent most of this year raising awareness and monies for the foundation. For the next few weeks, I will be blogging about my life with lupus.

For me, the worst/best part about lupus is that I don’t look sick. I don’t like to generalize, but they say this is a mostly “invisible illness.” When I got my diagnosis of lupus, I was working part time by choice because I was overwhelmed by my illness and I was concerned about my attendance and ability to work 40 hours a week. I had ...

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Gwenevere Alexander
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Gaffney is Rewriting the “User’s Manual”

With the completion of the Human Genome Project. Scientists promised the world a sort of “user’s manual” for the human body and commentators predicted the end of disease.
 
While those results have not yet arrived, it’s researchers like the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation’s Patrick Gaffney, M.D., who are trying to get the world there.
 
If DNA is the “Big Book of You,” with billions of pages dedicated to recipes for height, weight and hair color, what happens when some of the pages tell the body to attack itself? And who will read the ingredients and instructions?
 
That’s what Gaffney spends his days studying.
 
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system confuses healthy cells with foreign substances, like viruses and bacteria, and attacks the body’s tissues and organs. The illness affects an estimated 2 million Americans, roughly 90 percent of ...

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Dr. Patrick Gaffney
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A summer of opportunities

A summer of opportunities

This summer was amazing! I can’t even begin to describe how beneficial this summer fellowship was to my future career as a scientist. I learned so many new protocols that I can add to my list, as well as just how a lab works in general. I always thought labs had an impersonal and competitive environment, but this summer I got to see just how collaborative everyone was within and between labs.

I also got to do some amazing things that I would’ve never had the opportunity to do otherwise. I got to take a project that was on the cutting edge of lupus research, and follow it through the steps of getting verified, getting tested, and getting results. However, as most research does, this project did not get finished at the same time the summer ended. Which is why I’ve decided to stay at this lab with Dr. Emily Gillespie doing Directed Research with the same project I had the ...

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Brianna Lauer
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The buzz of science

The buzz of science

Successful science is not done only from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nor does it restrict itself to the working week. Working at the Center for Immunology has thrown me into the pace of science: a well-oiled machine that takes over your existence no matter which day of the week or what time of day.

The greatest excitement while doing my experiments has come as the sun is setting, as the lab quietens down from the hustle and bustle of the daytime. Still, there are dedicated researchers working to keep the science-machine going. While with other work you might lament the fact that you’re the only one left in the office, when you’re staying late in the lab you’re excited because the next day you’ll collect data and get results.

Even after repeating my experiment several times, I get the same buzz when it comes to completion and I get to see what my data looks like. The culmination of more than 12 hours ...

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Pietro Miozzo
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What my project is all about

What my project is all about

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 ...

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Brianna Lauer
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Collaboration leads to solutions

Collaboration leads to solutions

This week I really got to dig into my individual summer project! It’s a joint project with Dr. Jerry Molitor who is focused on scleroderma. Seeing collaboration between labs is so refreshing because instead of seeing a highly competitive and self-contained atmosphere, my experience has been full of data sharing and collaborative efforts in order to come up with solutions.  He even said I could visit his clinic and shadow him, which is an amazing opportunity that I’m excited for.

The project is looking at an alternative splice variant called VEGF165b and how that affects blood vessel formation in comparison to its main variant VEGF and how that relates to autoimmune diseases.  I get to see the process of how a scientific question can be posed, assessed, and answered. Currently we’re getting through the “red tape” type experiments to make sure that the experiments we’d like to use are functioning properly, so I’m excited to see where we go from here!

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Brianna Lauer
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“I now feel like a real scientist …”

“I now feel like a real scientist …”

Over the past two weeks, I have performed pilot experiments to finalize the design of my final project. One of these pilots compared an infected wild type model with an uninfected one; wild type means that the model has not been genetically modified in any way.

A day after infection, I examined spleen for the presence of certain dendritic cell variants. Dendritic cells are one of many types of white blood cells, and some of their subsets are found in greater numbers during infection. Therefore, I expected to find more of these dendritic cells after lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection. Dendritic cells are an essential part of the immune system, as they detect foreign bodies, such as pathogens, and present the pathogen’s antigens to T cells. Antigens are the surface proteins on cells that act as a recognition system. Your body has a set of antigens that are unique, so your immune cells can recognize you and find foreign cells. The ...

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Pietro Miozzo
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DNA extractions: a “hands on” approach to theoretical concepts

DNA extractions: a “hands on” approach to theoretical concepts

This week I spent most of the week doing DNA extractions as we get ready for a large genotyping project in lab. Learning how to do DNA extractions was really interesting, because it’s a theory that is widely taught in high school and college courses, but I had never been able to see the practice of it. Being able to have a “hands on” approach to theoretical concepts I’ve learned in my undergrad career is a great way to cement concepts as well as spike my interest in what’s actually happening with the tests that I’m doing. Instead of just following protocols, I can understand biologically what’s happening within the experiment. Dr. Emily Gillespie and her staff are very good about making sure I understand the biology behind what we do, and that’s made my experience all the more enjoyable.

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Brianna Lauer
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Lupus research: a balancing act

Lupus research: a balancing act

This week I learned how to balance doing multiple things in a laboratory! Sometimes you can have three different experiments running at once, and you have to make sure you know what all of them are doing. I’m doing a lot of different protocols, like RNA extraction, DNA extraction, cDNA synthesis, and Toll-Like Receptor stimulations.

This week I also got to meet with Dr. Jerry Molitor who is an Associate Professor of Medicine in Rheumatology, working at clinics here at the University of Minnesota. His specialty is Scleroderma and he’s doing a joint study with Dr. Emily Gillespie. I had the privilege to learn about this ongoing project and I even get the chance to help out and help analyze the results for a paper that’s being written on the subject.

This is an amazing opportunity and I’m really excited to start seeing results that we can analyze!

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Brianna Lauer
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