Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Divya Patel L&S Sciences

The Role of Bioactive Lipids in Smooth Muscle Physiology and Asthma

Asthma is caused by chronic inflammation in the lungs, which leads to inappropriate contraction of smooth muscle cells that surround the lung airways, causing them to narrow and impair breathing. Contraction of the smooth muscle occurs when the level of calcium ions inside the cells increases, and relaxation only occurs once muscle cells return to their resting state. This relaxation process is regulated by a potassium channel, the BK channel. Chronic inhibition of BK channels can result in airway muscle hyper-contraction and eventually lead to asthma. The steroid hormone, progesterone, inhibits the BK channel, and asthma is known to worsen during pregnancy or during hormone therapy, when blood progesterone levels are elevated. The purpose of this research is to determine how the BK channel is regulated by progesterone. My project will identify new pathways that regulate airway smooth muscle excitability and explain why asthma worsens with elevation of progesterone levels. This knowledge is valuable for the development of new pharmacological approaches to treat asthma, particularly asthma that worsens during hormonal therapy.

Message To Sponsor

I am honored to have been selected as a SURF Fellow. Thanks to the generous support from the SURF program and the Pergo Foundation, I will be able engage in my first independent research project and have the privilege of dedicating my summer to studying a topic which fascinates me. I look forward to this rewarding learning opportunity which has given me the chance to expand my passion for science and grow as a scientist.
Profile image of Divya Patel
Major: Integrative Biology, Public Health
Mentor: Polina Lishko, Molecular and Cell Biology
Sponsor: Pergo
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