Introduction: Exercising Mice to Help with Liver Transplants

Hi all! My name is Amaan Rahman, and I am a junior at the University of Pittsburgh in the direct-med program. I am majoring in Spanish and pursuing a double minor in Chemistry and Hindi. I was born and raised in Detroit, MI. Getting to know the city of Pittsburgh over these last two years has been a wonderful experience. I’ve really fallen in love with the unity and uniqueness that the city offers.

This semester my role will be to investigate the role of exercise on liver ischemia reperfusion injury (IRI). As an additional level, the livers we will be using will be transplanted from one subject to another. Currently, we will be using murine models to study this potential effect. The mice are divided into two studied categories: sedentary and preoperative-exercise training. The hypothesis is that exercise confers a protective effect against injury in our murine model of hepatic cold IRI through modulating the inflammatory response. We refer to the IRI as cold due to the fact that it is transplanted and kept in cold storage, as an organ in transplant would be. I will contribute to this project in the Geller Lab within the Thomas Starzl Transplant Institute. I will be under the instruction of Dr. Samer Tohme.

There are a plethora of reasons for why I decided to contribute to this study. First, I find transplant to be a very fascinating and growing field. With exercising potentially conferring protective effects in cold IRI, this finding could potentially be applied to patients in order to improve their overall fitness and quality of life. I also find the balance of inflammation to be very interesting. While inflammation is generally considered to be a positive, there is certainly a threshold that once crossed causes the body to be affected negatively. This is true in hepatic terms as well. Throughout the study neutrophil and macrophage levels are studied to understand if exercise aids in inflammation occurring optimally. Primarily, I think this is just a great opportunity for me to dive in and learn. As someone who has not yet started their career, I recognize that there are a lot of things I do not know about the field I plan on going into. Having the opportunity to jump in so early is something I am very excited to do.

After these next two years, I would like to matriculate into medical school. If possible, I hope to be able to maintain an active role in research for years to come. It is very exciting to be able to contribute to research that may advance the field and improve quality of life for future patients. The CURF offers an invaluable opportunity to be able to learn and grow in a great environment while also being able to partake in the incredible research that takes place at the University of Pittsburgh. I expect the learning curve to be significant this semester. I am excited to continue learning and hope to be able to contribute something positive to the project I am working on. 

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