PURM has allowed me to learn a variety of things throughout the summer. Working with the Ryeom lab allowed me to expand my skill set and my general knowledge regarding cancer and its growth. Every week, my peer Jonathan and I would present our findings from assigned weekly readings. This material allowed us to retrace the history of cancer and explore current-day discoveries. Having had the ability to obtain all this knowledge was a unique experience, as traditional STEM class syllabi rarely give such an in-depth description for a field I hope to specialize in one day. Additionally, an enriched background on cancer made it significantly easier to transition into my project, which focused primarily on gastric cancer.
The harmful effects of gastric cancer can be identified worldwide. This form of cancer must be identified as soon as possible, as early detection significantly improves survival rates. Unfortunately, there are little to no early detection procedures that are cost-efficient and non-invasive. However, the discovery of microRNAs (miRNAs) is slowly changing this. miRNAs are molecules that circulate in your blood and can often predict the presence of a tumor based on whether the molecule is over-expressed or down-regulated. Using this information and a previous gastric cancer miRNA biomarker panel developed by the Singapore Gastric Cancer Consortium (SGCC), my project set out to establish the viability of miRNAs as biomarkers by testing the molecules in our lab’s genetically modified cancerous mice model. We selected three of the twelve miRNA molecules from the SGCC’s panel and set out to identify the difference in miRNA levels between gastric cancer mice, healthy mice, and water as our negative control.
I had to first master the skills necessary to complete a DNA PCR. It was important that I understood how to complete the procedure with little to no mistakes due to the sensitivity of the miRNA that my project would require me to work with later. I then moved on to my primary project, in which I was able to learn how to extract serum from mice, isolate miRNAs from the extracted serum, as well as convert the miRNA into cDNA, which would then be used to conduct qPCR — a procedure that allows us to quantify the amount of miRNA present in a sample. After the data was collected, I learned how to analyze the data and format it so my target audience could better understand what I would be presenting to them. Unfortunately, the results were most likely statistically insignificant. As a result, further testing must be conducted in which we should retest the experiment and explore the biomarker potential of other miRNA variants.
Dr. Ryeom’s lab has encouraged me to never settle for the bare minimum, always strive to learn more and think outside of the box. I look forward to applying the skills and information that I have learned over the summer to improve my life as a student, employee, and person.
To see my poster, visit Penn Presents: https://presentations.curf.upenn.edu/poster/micrornas-early-gastric-canc...