Medical Student Research Fellowship for Summer 2010
Mentor: David W. Russell, Ph.D.
Department: Molecular Genetics
Room number: L5.262
Mail Code: 9046
Phone number: 214 648-2007
Project title: Measurement of sterol levels in subjects from the Dallas Heart Study.
Human subjects IRB approved project number (where applicable): 022007-004 (PI - Dr. Helen Hobbs)
Animal subjects IRB approved project number (where applicable): N/A
Project Type: Human-based
Brief Description of Project: Research in the Russell laboratory has shown that oxysterols, which are derivatives of cholesterol, play important roles in mouse physiology and lipid metabolism. In an effort to determine the functions of these compounds in humans, we will use mass spectrometry to quantify the levels of side-chain and ring structure-oxysterols in ~3,000 subjects from the Dallas Heart Study. Mr. Aaron Ochoa's project will involve extraction of sterols from small aliquots (300 µl) of serum and the use liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to measure the levels of individual sterols. Working in close collaboration with a highly trained analytical chemist and several technicians, we estimate that measurements in 50 samples can be made per week. Thus in an ~8-week period, Mr. Ochoa will assist in the analysis of serum from ~400 individuals. Distribution curves of individual sterols in the cohort will be plotted and ultimately, we will perform genetic analyses to determine whether high and low levels of a particular sterol correlate with mutations in the appropriate biosynthetic or catabolic gene. From this research experience, Mr. Ochoa will learn the rigors of quantitative analytical chemistry, how metabolomic studies are done, and how a clinically well characterized patient population can be used to gain fundamental insight into human biology.