“By investigating how CaMKII impacts heart disease through its accumulation and over-expression, my research is part of an ongoing investigation into heart failure and an effort to save lives.” —Gianna Bortoli

By Gianna Bortoli ’19
Lake Oswego, Ore.
Biology, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies minor

Summer research offers an important chance to gain real-world experience in the field. Macalester professors work to prepare students for these opportunities and offer courses that teach crucial introductory skills. In my biology courses, that included learning to set up polymerase chain reactions, pipetting, experimental design setup, and literature analysis.

These techniques were valuable during my summer internship at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, where I worked in the lab of Dr. Mark Anderson, a Macalester alumnus. I found the internship through the Olin-Rice Hub, a service dedicated to connecting Macalester students with resources and learning opportunities. Each year, they offer one student from Macalester the opportunity to work in Dr. Anderson’s lab for 10 weeks.

Last summer, I worked with Dr. Anderson to study a protein called CaMKII. Although it’s naturally found in heart tissue, the overexpression of this protein is directly correlated with an increase in heart failure. His lab is interested in how CaMKII enters the mitochondria of heart cells, what role it might play in causing heart failure, and eventually how to target it as a potential treatment. We used a variety of advanced techniques in our research, including western blot analysis and Green Fluorescent Protein tagging, which allowed us to test whether CaMKII enters the mitochondria, and then to track its movement.

Because cardiovascular disease is currently the leading cause of death in the U.S., by investigating how CaMKII impacts the disease through its accumulation and over-expression, my research is part of an ongoing investigation into heart failure and an effort to save lives.

February 1 2019

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