For our next entry in our series of intellectual undergrad investigators, we have Nancy Lum of the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology!
Name: Nancy Lum
Department: Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology
Year of Study: 3rd
Supervisor: Dr. Glen Tibbits
Photo (from left to right) : Marvin Gunawan, Sanam Shafaattalab, Nancy Lum, Frederico Lisboa, Sabi Sangha, Alison Li
A: One day I hope to be a pediatrician to support the physical and mental health of children and youth!
A: The Tibbits lab works with human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. In other words, we can grab a patient’s blood sample, take the T cells, give them a bunch of molecules called the Yamanaka factors, and reprogram them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). This means that they can differentiate into a number of other cells – kidney cells, neurons, and cardiomyocytes. Our lab is currently focusing on differentiating them into cardiomyocytes and using them as a disease model to study inherited arrhythmias. This has been fondly dubbed “disease in a dish.” It is pretty amazing to see the heart cells actually beating in a concerted way in a petri dish at 60-80 bpm, like a regular heart does!How do I fit into this? When we turn our iPSCs into cardiomyocytes, they can turn into ventricular, atrial, and nodal cells. I optimized an quantitative PCR assay that will help determine what the dominant type of cells are in our little petri dishes. After all, if we’re studying an arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation, we need to make sure that the cells are predominantly atrial. The hope is that we can use this technique to optimize our differentiation methods to yield mostly ventricular, mostly atrial, or mostly nodal cells.
Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: My favourite so far has been BPK 412 – Molecular Cardiac Physiology with Dr. Glen Tibbits. Barring the fact that I’m probably biased because Dr. Tibbits is my PI and because he has a wicked sense of humour, BPK 412 gives you an awesome look into the world of cardiac research, giving a thorough discussion of the current knowledge of cardiac ion channels, which dictate how our hearts beat. Plus, Dr. Tibbits goes in depth about the research done to figure these things out, and it’s just fascinating.
A: A multichannel pipette!