While my family is having trouble with those flop-eared mammals over in the Valley, I'm putting them to good use in Charlottesville. My summer job in a surgery research lab involves performing a certain procedure on them to test the effects of various drugs on spinal cord function.
Here's a basic rundown: In humans, surgical repair of an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) involves clamping the aorta (the primary artery from the heart to the body) for a short amount of time. When the blood flow commences post-clamping, an inflammatory response in the spinal cord can cause nervous system damage. We're looking at potential interventions to prevent this initial inflammatory cascade.
I won't get into the details for those who might be squeamish, but the surgery involves two groups of rabbits: those treated with a drug prior to surgery and those without treatment. All rabbits then undergo a 30 minute aortic clamping, and the effects of the intervention is measured. Later, the spinal cord is harvested and examined microscopically to see the effects on the cellular level.
My primary project involves the same principle, but in the specific area of organ transplantation, specifically lungs. I will be performing lung isolation and transplantation on mice, rats, and rabbits. I'll let you know of progess as it occurs! So the next time you have furry garden intruders and wish they would just disappear, think of all the potential good they're doing you in other areas!