Where to start!? Its hard to believe but already my first week in sweltering Bethesda Maryland is coming to a close. After spending the first couple of days filling out endless paperwork and working on a few powerpoint presentations for my supervisor Stacey, I am beginning to feel the dust settle. Yesterday, I was given my very own desk and the only mac in the lab (since apparently very few people know how to use them in the lab, they have been deemed worthless and relegated to the ranks of the interns). I have since spent a significant amount of my time reading about the different assays I will be performing in the coming weeks. I will admit that, at first, the stack of manuals and background literature appeared somewhat daunting but has since turned out to be very interesting and I can’t wait to get my hands on a kit and actually run an ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay). The Interleukin-6 and Creatine Kinase assays are of particular interest because both are key plasma biomarkers that will be measured in the caffein heat study at several time points exertion under heat stress. I have been told that at some point in the next two weeks, I will help out with a multiplex bead assay, which is supposed to filter out different cytokines from plasma. Neat!
I should mention that one of the coolest things at the lab is the “Heat Chamber” where subjects in both the Exertional Heat Illness (EHI) study and the Rhabdomyolysis study spend a good deal of time on treadmills sweating more than they thought possible. The Heat Chamber is essentially a fancy sauna that can very precisely regulate temperature, humidity, UV exposure, and wind. The idea behind making subjects walk or jog for extended periods of time in the chamber is to simulate the environment of a Middle Eastern desert and thus get a more accurate idea of how their bodies would react to such an environment. A precursor to the heat chamber in both protocols is a VO2 Max test or aerobic fitness test. On Tuesday, I was able to take a break from registration paperwork and actually observe a Max test. Basically, subjects are outfitted with a mask that measures how much oxygen they are breathing in compared with how much CO2 they are breathing out, EKG leads, and a catheter to take regular blood samples. The subject then proceeds to run to exhaustion. If the subjects actually Maxes out, as determined by several criteria including their “exhaustion” O2/CO2 breathing ratio, lactate and glucose levels, and heart rate, then he/she is cleared to continue on the the heat chamber (not the same day of course).
Tomorrow I am supposed to spend all morning learning how to run the heat chamber and troubleshoot equipment so that I will be able to actually help out when we have a subject come in on next Tuesday.Tomorrow afternoon is to be spent with one of the lab fellows, Joel, who is from Birmingham England and will be teaching me DNA extraction using the DNeasy assay and how to quantify whatever I can get using spectroscopy. Tomorrow will also by my first day with a camera (I have been told everything except people is fair game) so hopefully I’ll have some pictures by next week.