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Source: Brett Wong, 785-532-4843,
News release prepared by: Tyler Sharp, 785-532-2535,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


MANHATTAN -- A new discovery in how humans regulate body temperature has resulted in an award for a Kansas State University master's student and a presentation at a prestigious conference.

Sarah Fieger, master's student in kinesiology, Dundee, Ore., presented at Experimental Biology 2011, April 9-13, in Washington, D.C. The four-day multidisciplinary conference brings together multiple societies. Fieger presented her abstract "TRPV-1 Channels Contribute to Cutaneous Active Vasodilation in Humans" to the American Physiological Society. She also was named the recipient of the Gatorade Predoctoral Research Award from the Exercise and Environmental Physiology Section of the American Physiology Section. The award includes a cash prize and complimentary registration to the conference.

Fieger has conducted her research with Brett Wong, K-State assistant professor of kinesiology. They examined the mechanisms of how blood flow increases to the skin during heat stress. Fieger's work focuses on transient receptor potential vanilloid type one channels or TRPV-1. These channels are located on many sensory nerves in the skin that detect pain and temperature. Some evidence suggests they are also located in blood vessels, Wong said.

Fieger is using a drug to block the receptors, performing whole body heating to increase subjects' body temperature and examining their skin blood flow response to the increase in body temperature.

"She found that if you block those channels there's a decrease in blood flow to the skin during heat stress," Wong said. "This suggests these channels are involved in the body's response to heating or when body temperature increases."

Fieger's research includes novel data as a sensory data component to thermo-regulation that had been previously unexamined. The research also found that blocking the molecule nitric oxide results in a reduced response to heat stress. Blocking nitric oxide and the TRPV-1 channels does not cause further reduction in the response to heat stress.

"This seems to imply that the TRPV-1 channels are independently involved in the response to heat stress," Wong said.

Additional evidence has found that blocking the channels shifts the onset for the increase in skin blood flow to a higher body temperature. These channels might also explain why individuals in disease states such as diabetes have a lower tolerance to heat stress.

Wong began collecting the initial data three years ago but did not have time to finish. Fieger started her research a year ago.

Fieger is already a prolific author. She was published in Experimental Physiology in summer 2010. Another paper is in review with the Journal of Applied Physiology. She also was a co-author on a paper examining TRPV-1 channels with local heating that was published in the Journal of Physiology, one of the top journals in the field Wong said.

"Sarah's shown tremendous ability to think intellectually about the data," Wong said. "Overall she's really taken things and been extremely successful and productive in the nearly two years that she's been at K-State."

Fieger earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Oregon in 2008.