During my time in Professor Alasdair Gibb’s lab, I followed him and his students in their study of brain tissue, specifically NMDA receptors found on the membranes of dopamine cells. The research carried out in his lab corresponds to Parkinson’s disease, as the effects of the disease are caused by the loss of dopamine cells.
In the experiments a dopamine cell is first located. They are usually identified as having a ‘tear drop’ shape. Once the cell is located, it is then broken into and the first recording of the normal cell activity is taken using a computer programme called WinEDR.
After the normal cell activity is recognised, the first dose of NMDA is added to the sample for 120 seconds. This changes the activity of the cell, which is represented by a peak (blocker) in the graph. Once the 120 second exposure to NMDA is over, a control solution is added to stabilise the cell to return the cell to its normal functional rate. This is done for about 5 minutes and then the NMDA is added again for 120 seconds and the results are taken down.
I’ve noticed that the work carried out in the lab, despite being very detailed, isn’t far from what I studied at AS Level, for example, the NMDA receptors found in the membranes of the dopamine cells remind me of transport proteins in the phospholipid bilayer of cells. I really liked how I was able to use my knowledge of my school syllabus to understand elements of the work studied in the lab here. This scheme is definitely for anyone passionate in doing a science degree and it has cleared my mind and enabled me to see what I want to study at university.
By Paul Izevbuwa