The Rigors of Research

Think you have a complicated line of work? Well, junior Kyle Freischlag may take the cake.

Over the summer, the biology and history major interned with the Institute for Bionanotechnology in Medicine through the Department of Surgery at Northwestern University in Illinois. A native of Downers Grove, Freischlag researched the mechanisms behind nitric oxide therapies in the treatment of neointimal hyperplasia.

You may be wondering: what in the world is that?

According to Freischlag, it’s all about cell growth and understanding how nitric oxide affects it.

“If someone has an arterial blockage, they will undergo a surgical procedure such as an angioplasty,” he says. “Any surgical procedure will produce damage to the cell wall, triggering cell growth
in that area.”

That cell growth may become uncontrollable and then re-block the recently cleared artery. During his internship, Freischlag looked at how nitric oxide could be used in the treatment of unwanted cell growth. The molecule inhibits cell growth, but the science community is unsure how it works. Freischlag says it may have something to do with the cell degradation pathway, which is responsible for triggering mitosis.

Freischlag looked at the different protein concentrations involved at different points in the cell cycle. “We used rat arterial cells and grew them in cell lines with different nitric oxide treatments,” he says. Freischlag then used western blots, an analytical technique that detects specific proteins.

The internship was quite a lot to undertake for a student who has already traveled to Ghana and is involved with varsity tennis, health professions club and Tri-Beta, the biology honors society. On top of his summer research, Freischlag spent time in a dark room developing film and even had an abstract submitted to the Academic Surgical Conference. With this prestigious internship under his belt, Freischlag plans to pursue a combined M.D. and Ph.D. program that will lead him to academic medicine.

“This experience introduced me to the rigors and reality of academic research,” Freischlag says. “It helped me define my passion.”

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