Monday, March 27, 2006

Warning: Science Content!

This past week, I attended an international scientific meeting held by the Society for Gynecological Investigation, which is a major scientific organization in my field of research. This year, the convention was held at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto, Canada. I submitted an abstract and presented a poster about some experiments that I completed last year involving the contractility of pregnant myometrium.

For those of you who are not familiar with my research (which most likely includes everybody), perhaps I should explain the basis of my research:

Myometrium, the smooth muscle portion of the uterus, is responsible for the contractions during labor and delivery that result in childbirth. It is active only for a short time at the end of gestation and must remain in a relaxed (or quiescent) state for most of pregnancy.

A number of factors are able to affect the contractility of myometrium and consequently, control the timing and progression of labor. One of these factors is the access the myometrium has to oxygen. When we expose pregnant animals to low oxygen conditions, e.g. high altitude, we expect that the stress of long-term hypoxia (LTH) would cause the animals to be more prone to preterm labor. However, this is not the case. For instance, LTH can delay parturition (delivery) in rats for up to 1.5 days, significant when your pregnancy only lasts 21 days. Also, our lab has found that sheep exhibit reduced myometrial function when exposed to LTH. This seems to be an adaptation that decreases the likelihood of preterm birth.

In fact, my work has discovered two adaptations within the myometrial cell. First, calcium, which directly triggers contractions, is handled differently. We have found that the cell shifts its dependence from intracellular stores of calcium (in the sarcoplasmic reticulum) to extracellular stores (through L-type calcium channels). You can read more about it here.

We have also found that potassium channels, which dampen the excitability of the cell membrane, are altered. The activity of a key potassium channel called the BK channel is elevated. We are currently measuring the protein levels of this channel in the myometrium.

We have also examined levels of another protein, called protein kinase G, that may potentially link these cellular pathways together.

Perhaps the greatest lesson that I will take away from my time in research is a deeper appreciation for the divine Author who designed these physiological systems. As I have studied physiology (the study of organismal function, as one of my professors defines it), I never cease to be amazed at the incredible complexity yet simple beauty of the Creator's handiwork. Although many of my professors believe in evolution, my research has actually strengthened my belief in a Creator God.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Psalms 139:14

It is my hope and prayer that my PhD will enable me to bring glory to my Creator (Rev 14:7) and hasten His soon return to make all things new (Rev 21:5).

Sunday, March 12, 2006

My Life Summary in Six Points

I know that I haven't updated this blog for a long time. I've been wrapped up in experiments that never seem to stop (or work). Here is a quick update of my life:
  1. I presented a poster at the Annual Postgraduate Convention here at Loma Linda and won 3rd place. Not the best showing I've ever had but I'll take the $50 prize, no questions asked. (Actually not bad for a few hours of work!)
  2. I and a few friends made an appearance in the latest Adventist Review (Feb 16, 2006) on page 22. I didn't know about it until a lady gave me a photocopy of the page...
  3. The Heritage Library (branch of White Estate) had their annual book sale a couple weeks ago. I must confess that I went on a shopping spree, bought almost 40 books (but only spent about $70). Many should begin to appear on my reading lists. Key acquisitions included Miracles Happen Every Day, a book about self-supporting work written by former GC president, Robert Pierson (I've wanted to read this book for a while now), an early 1900s Sanitarium and Training School Manual printed by the Medical Department of the GC (includes blueprints, admission forms, and actual proposed curricula), and, of course, many red books to help fill in my meager but growing library.
  4. I spent 5 hours in meetings today...just for GYC. This is not out of the ordinary. In fact, it is all too common. Pray for us. I should be able to announce next year's program and venue soon.
  5. Since Norman used his blog to advertise a potential photo gallery on my website, I feel obliged to supply it. here to experience a typical day in Southern California.
  6. Mark Finley will be speaking at Advent HOPE on April 8. Don't miss it!