My name is Annie Huang and I’m a rising junior at Brown University studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I’m interested in environmental health exposures and environmental toxicology relating to intergenerational effects. This summer I’ve expanded my knowledge of doing pathway analysis, reading through journal articles, and writing a scientific report.
What is your summer research project?
This summer I worked with great mentorship from Dr. Yu-chin Lien and Dr. Rebecca Simmons on a project analyzing the intergenerational impact of Lower and Higher BPA exposure in pancreatic islets cells of male offspring. I analyzed RNA seq data in a software called Ingenuity Pathway Analysis that outputs significant upstream regulators and pathways that were activated and inhibited.
Previously, a post-doctoral researcher in the lab Dr. Amita Bansal designed an experiment where mothers were exposed to BPA throughout pregnancy where male F1 offspring showed decrease in insulin secretion, increased body fat percentage, and impaired glucose tolerance. She found several mechanisms responsible for the effects of decreased insulin secretion in pancreatic islet cells from lower and higher exposure of BPA in male offspring. However, there were still pathways and upstream regulators that were unknown in their role of mediating decreased insulin secretion. Thus, I found that a novel pathway, ER stress in the pancreatic beta-cells, that could be responsible for the phenotypes from higher exposure of BPA.
What are the implications of your research?
A NHANES Study from 2004 found that 93% of the study’s participants had BPA in their urine sample and that urinary levels of BPA exposure are correlated to Type 2 Diabetes risk. Because of the widespread usage of and exposure to BPA, and that BPA has a non monotonic dose response curve, meaning that there is a nonlinear relationship between exposure and response, it is imperative to understand the unique mechanisms of lower and higher exposure to BPA as it relates to pancreatic islet cells and insulin secretion.
This research project could inform on better regulation of BPA levels, as well as better understanding mechanisms behind general pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction from Type 2 Diabetes.
What new skills have you gained through your research?
I have learned a vast array of knowledge in environmental health this summer from the public health perspective of environmental health to the wet lab and toxicology work. My previous experiences in environmental health have been mostly through environmental activism and coursework, so it was really exciting to combine my interest in biochemistry with environmental exposure research this summer. I have gained skills in the more dry lab aspect of research, such as understanding and analyzing RNA sequencing, using IPA Software, and reading numerous journal articles and reviews to write a scientific paper on my project. Presenting my work to the STEER community at the end of the summer also allowed me to hone my skills in scientific communication. Overall, from the various field trips, lectures, and my research project, I have enhanced my understanding of ways to better address environmental health issues through a combined policy and science perspective.