Preethi Searches for Solutions to Lung Fibrosis

Preethi Searches for Solutions to Lung Fibrosis

November 2, 2019 0 By Ewald Bahringer


“My name is Preethi Vijayaraj. We are here
in the lab of Dr. Bridget Gomperts at UCLA. I work on a disease called idiopathic pulmonary
fibrosis. We are trying to model the disease in a dish, and also trying to find new therapies
for this devastating disorder. Initially, I was involved a lot in the basic biology
part of science, understanding mechanisms, understanding why the body does what it’s
doing, but of late, I’ve been into translational medicine, which is to apply what we do in
the lab to the patients out there. I’m originally from India. I grew up in India.
My entire college was in India, and when I did my PhD, I left my country for the very
first time to do my PhD back in Germany. I moved to the States in 2008 to do my first
post-doc in Boston, and then I moved here. In India, I come from a very small town called
Uti, which is a hill station. It’s a tourist town. Basically, it’s a small town surrounded
by a number of villages. It’s very beautiful. I became interested in science from the time
I can actually remember, being a little girl, because science is a part of the family. My
dad is a doctor, and he used to see patients in little villages. He used to do home calls
a lot, so we would sometimes accompany him to these villages, watching him treat patients.
It was always there, and there is no ?? instance that said okay, science is where you need
to go. I think it is just a part of me. The work that I do here in Dr. Gomperts’ lab
is to study a disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It’s a lung scarring disorder and
there is no treatment or good model to study the disease, so we are trying to generate
a more relevant model for the disease by using human stem cells, induced pluripotent stem
cells, derived from the patient itself, and to re differentiate them into cells that could
form a phenotype, or a scarring phenotype, in a dish. By doing that, we can understand,
or try to study, what causes this scarring, in a more relevant fashion. We use confocal microscopy in order to image
our scarring phenotype in a dish, and what happens after the drug is added. We use the
confocal microscope in order to see which proteins are expressed, or not expressed,
with the treatment. By doing all these experiments, it helps us to create a disease in a dish,
so we can study what underlies this scarring phenotype. This will help us, then, to discover
new therapies for this particular disease. Lab life is absolutely fantastic. We are a
moderately-sized lab. It’s a lot of learning, a lot of teaching, and a lot of experimenting.
Hopes and dreams for my current project are to find a cure for patients suffering from
idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. There is currently no effective treatment. So much needs to be
studied. So little is understood, and there is so much that needs to be identified. Quality
of life can be made so much better by being in science, and I think, for that reason,
we need more fantastic scientists in the field.”