The renowned research excellence of Einstein's faculty can sometimes extend to the undergraduate students who participate in the College of Medicine's Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), as David Gaita recently learned. Mr. Gaita was among the 50 college students who took part in SURP this past summer.
Working in the laboratory of Dr. Linda Jelicks, Mr. Gaita had the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research using resources in Einstein's MicroPET Core Facility. His studies resulted in an award-winning image at the 2012 World Molecular Imaging Conference, held in Dublin, Ireland.
Along with his mentors, Dr. Jelicks and Wade Koba, Mr. Gaita won the "Novel Application Image of the Year category of the Siemens Preclinical Image of the Year contest. The competition recognizes and showcases images acquired as part of cutting-edge preclinical research using Siemens imaging systems.
For his summer research project, Mr. Gaita tested the feasibility of utilizing a widely used medical radioisotope, Technetium-99m (Tc-99m-MAA), to image the live goldfish brain. The experiment was conducted using a novel device that immobilizes aquatic animals in their natural environment. The device was specially designed and constructed by Mr. Koba, who is operations manager of the MicroPET facility, along with faculty member Dr. Eugene Fine. (Einstein has filed a patent application related to this research, which is available for licensing.) Results from the experiment demonstrated the ability to obtain repeated imaging without harm to the fish.
The award-winning image showed that, following injection into the tail vein, Tc-99m-MAA readily localizes to the gills, brain, and an air-breathing cavity called the suprabranchial chamber of the goldfish.
"This research has laid the groundwork for the possibility of live-imaging of conscious zebra fish, a very important biomedical research animal model used in such diverse fields as genetics, developmental biology, cancer, and immunology, noted Dr. Jelicks, who is associate professor of physiology and biophysics.
SURP is offered each summer to undergraduates with a strong background and interest in science an opportunity to conduct research in one of Einstein's many outstanding laboratories.
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