Researching the Effect of Diet on Mice with Cancer
A photo essay
Under the supervision of Kurt Degenhardt, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences, second-year Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine students Daniel Gorman, Greg McWhir, and Westley Reinhart-McMillan (with the assistance of first-year students Pinang Shastri, Hina Khan, and Krystle Garcia) are conducting an experiment on whether diet can suppress tumor growth in mice.
The members of the team have completed the first part of the experiment and are currently working on analyzing the data.
1. The Effect of Diet on Suppressing Tumor Growth in Mice
Shown here (from left): Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine P2 students Daniel Gorman, Greg McWhir, and Westley Reinhart-McMillan.
"Our hypothesis is that different diets—which provide different nutrients to the tumors—will either enhance or slow down tumor growth.
"We created different cancer cell lines (which we derived from mouse kidney tissue) and injected them into the mice. The genomes have been altered within the kidney cells—some genes, like oncogenes, have been upregulated, while others, such as genome protectors, have been knocked out."
2. Mice, or Infants?
Above, the cages used to house the mice for their experiment. In addition to completing all the day-to-day tasks related to food, water, and cleaning, the team had to weigh each mouse’s total weight and tumor volume daily.
"Since the mice's immune systems were deficient, we had to keep them in completely sterile environments. That meant that the upkeep was a tremendous amount of work—we had to constantly clean them, maintain the right temperatures, feed them, give them water, change their diapers, clean their cages…
"They were like little babies!"
3. Expanding the Team
Due to the heavy workload of the experiment, three first-year DO students – Pinang Shastri, Hina Khan, and Krystle Garcia – were brought on as collaborators to help continue moving the project forward. Here, Shastri, Khan, and Garcia organize and label the mice tissue samples.
4. Dr. Kurt Degenhardt
The team is currently working on immunostaining and creating Western Blots to analyze the numerous tumor tissue samples they’ve collected from the mice. Here, Dr. Kurt Degenhardt, Associate Professor of the Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences, is preparing to create a Western Blot.
5. Western Blots
"We take a sample of the tumor, mix it with a solution, and the Blot tells you the amount of protein expression present in that specific tumor."
Gorman and Reinhart explaining how gel electrophoresis, a method of using electricity to separate proteins based on size and charge, works in their experiment.
“We added little bits of the tumor into a gel with wells in it—see how it looks like lanes on a racetrack? Then we add a charge to the gel, and the proteins travel toward the opposite side at different speeds depending on how large or small they are, kind of like speed with runners. Then, when we remove the charge, the proteins are all separated at different lengths. That way we can visualize whether or not a protein is present based on the length we expect it to be.”
7. Looking Out Into the Future
The team began the experiment last summer, in August 2014.
"By now, we have about 120 break-off experiments available from this one. There are so many opportunities for students to use these brain tissue samples down the road. So while we’re performing our experiment, we’re paving the way for different labs to be conducted in the future."