Kara Romanowski was awarded the Presidential University Summer Fellowship in 2017 to study the effect of statins on lipid accumulation in cultured hepatocyte cell lines. Kara, a BCMB major who is also a member of the Honors Program, took the Cell Biology Laboratory course in 2016. She then continued her research by designing a project on the effects of exendin-4 (a drug that decreases lipid accumulation by inhibiting the glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor) and atorvastatin (a drug that reduces cholesterol production by inhibiting the HMG-coA reductase enzyme) on HepG2 cells.
HepG2 cells are derived from liver tumors (hepatomas). Since they maintain many of the characteristics found in normal hepatocytes, they are commonly used as a model for the molecular and functional characteristics of liver cells (hepatocytes). She focuses her studies on fat accumulation within these cells, and whether the pharmacological agents cause the HepG2 cells to accumulate fat from their surrounding environment. She therefore grows these cells in fatty media, applies the compounds, and then measures lipid accumulation using AdipoRed, a fluorescent molecule that marks intracellular lipids.
Her research is driven by personal interests in cholesterol and lipid metabolism as it pertains to human health. She plans to present her work at the upcoming annual conference of the American Society for Cell Biology in December 2018 (San Diego, CA).
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