ELKO — While most students spent their summer vacation sleeping in and hanging out with friends, Great Basin College biological sciences student Sandra Solis spent her vacation doing research in Phoenix, Arizona.
Solis was chosen to receive a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institute of Health (NIH) fellowship award for research earlier this year.
Solis completed the 10-week fellowship in the Diabetes Molecular Genomics section of the Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch (PECRB), a branch of the NIDDK dedicated to studying the genetics of diabetes and its risk factors amongst the Pima Tribe of Native Americans. She worked under Dr. Leslie J. Baier, Dr. Yunhua L. Muller, and Dr. Samantha E. Day.
Specifically, Solis’s research focused on a mutation in a gene involved in leptin signaling.
“The Arizona Pima Indians have an established higher prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes and its risk factors such as obesity. Obesity is a complex disease, which is commonly misunderstood as being a lifestyle choice, but there is also a genetic component to the disease, which can be of polygenic or a monogenic basis. PECRB not only studies the polygenic basis of the disease, but also the monogenic basis,” said Solis.
“A way to study this is by looking at diseases known to cause monogenic obesity to systematically find new pathways that may be contributing to the established higher prevalence of obesity on the Arizona Pima Indians.”
Leptin is a hormone that is secreted by fat cells that travel via the bloodstream to the hypothalamus, a region of the brain, ultimately signaling the sense fullness.
Solis studied the mutation in a gene involved in this signaling pathway found in eight heterozygous Pima carriers. These carriers had a higher mean Body Mass Index over 40.
“The findings of this project were preliminary, and require further investigation of the mutation,” said Solis.
Solis presented her findings at the end of her fellowship at the NIH headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland.
“I definitely never considered the field of research until this experience,” said Solis.
Solis is a senior in the biological sciences baccalaureate program this year, with the intention attending medical school upon graduation.
If you are interested in studying biology and learning more about research opportunities in biomedicine, contact biology professor David Freistroffer at email@example.com.