My research project

After successfully finishing all of my January exams, I mistakenly thought that I was going have a little time off to relax from the hectic schedule.

The opposite was true, however, as we almost immediately embarked on another component of the second year, the nervous system, one of the hardest modules of preclinical years. Even though we once again found ourselves buried in work, it needs to be noted that neuroscience is an extremely intriguing and continuously developing field and is a shining example of how important research is for development of therapeutic strategies of neurological disorders. At the end of this 5-week-long module, we will once again have a weeklong hospital placement, where we will learn how to perform neurological examination and obtain patients’ medical histories, as well as learn the different medical management strategies.

As I already mentioned in my first article, I have been working this semester on my research project under the supervision of Prof Jules Hancox, a cardiac electrophysiology professor. I focused on the gain-of-function mutations in cardiac potassium channel subunits and their role in development of cardiac arrhythmias, in particular atrial fibrillation, short QT syndrome and Brugada syndrome. In spite of these potassium channel mutations often having devastating effects, they have been discovered only fairly recently, in 2003, as their incidence is very low. I primarily focused on describing the main underlying mechanisms of these mutations and their distribution in the heart tissue. I also suggested that differences in spatial and transmural expression of the mutation ion channels might be two of the possible reasons why gain-of-function mutations in potassium channels with the very same effect on their currents often result in clinically different symptoms.

Due to the busy schedule this semester, I was forced to step back and take a break from my engagement in Prof Mark Cannell’s laboratory of cardiac electrophysiology. Having finished my research project, however, I am now looking to come back. I would like to research relevant materials and come up with a topic for my bachelor thesis next year, which I would like to focus on something along the lines of electrophysiology and pharmacology of cardiac arrhythmias due to gene mutations.

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