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Sources: Jacob Hull, jhull@k-state.edu;
and Bruce Schultz, 785-532-4839, bschultz@vet.k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-2535, bbohn@k-state.edu

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

AMERICAN PHYSIOLOGICAL SOCIETY SELECTS K-STATE STUDENT AS 2010 UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT FELLOW

MANHATTAN -- The American Physiological Society has selected a Kansas State University student as a 2010 Undergraduate Student Fellow.

Jacob Hull, junior in biochemistry, Garden City, receives a $4,000 stipend to cover living expenses during the 10-week fellowship, which he will serve this summer in the laboratory of Bruce Schultz, professor of epithelial cell physiology in K-State's department of anatomy and physiology.

Hull is one of 24 students worldwide to be named a Fellow. The fellowship program aims to encourage students about careers in biomedical research. Among the selection factors were academic merit and quality of research experience.

Hull's research project is "Role of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma on epithelial growth, differentiation and activity" and is related to work done in Schultz's laboratory on the link between mutations in the cystic fibrosis protein known as CFTR and loss of the male reproductive duct that occurs in cystic fibrosis patients.

According to Schultz, cystic fibrosis is a disease that affects many tissues throughout the body that normally secrete salt and water. Instead of watery secretions, cystic fibrosis patients have very thick secretions that can cause intestinal blockage, make the pancreas stop working and, in airways, create a great environment for infections to grow.

"Most cystic fibrosis patients have many intestinal problems and have recurrent lung infections that can lead to an early death," Schultz said. "But one of the lesser know facets of cystic fibrosis is that virtually all males with the disease lack the vas deferens -- the tube that allows sperm to leave the testicle on the way to prostate. As medical care for cystic fibrosis patients has improved in the last 30 years and more patients are reaching adulthood, infertility has become a greater issue."

"My project will be using a series of drugs that either activate or block the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma protein to determine whether all have the expected effect," Hull said. "I also will use molecular techniques to determine which salt transport pathways are affected by the drug rosiglitazone and its related compounds."

Rosiglitazone is a drug sometimes used to treat diabetes. It has been found to cause a change in the absorption of salt by cells lining the male reproductive duct. The drug also is known to interact with the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma protein.

"There are many applications for the knowledge that will be gained from this project," Schultz said. "Abnormalities in these pathways may explain the fertility problems that are encountered by some couples. Lessons learned with vas deferens cells may have applications for other tissues in the body, including the airway and the intestine of cystic fibrosis patients."

"What has really sparked my interest in this project is that it has so many paths it can take," Hull said. "It can help us understand signaling, cystic fibrosis and how these drugs affect different parts of the body. No matter what the result of these experiments, it is guaranteed to be new and exciting."

As part of the fellowship, Hull also receives an additional $1,300 in travel funds to present his research at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting in Washington, D.C., which is expected to attract nearly 14,000 scientists.

Hull already has been doing research in the laboratory of K-State's Christine Aikens, assistant professor of chemistry, since last summer. The research has entailed characterization of DNA-silver nanoparticle interactions using computer models and calculations.

After earning his undergraduate degree from K-State, Hull plans to attend graduate school to get his doctorate in a biomedical field. He would then like to work at a research university.

"This fellowship will be very helpful in reaching these goals as it will get me involved in an extensive research experience this summer and acquaint me with practices and protocol that I will likely need in my future career," he said.

Hull is the recipient of an Undergraduate Research Award from K-State's Terry C. Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research and a K-State Opportunity Scholarship. He is the son of Tammy Hull, Garden City, and a 2008 graduate of Garden City High School.

The American Physiological Society is a professional scientific membership organization devoted to fostering scientific research, education and the dissemination of scientific information. The Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowships program is sponsored by the society's Career Opportunities in Physiology Committee and funded by the society's council.