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ETSU Quillen College of Medicine students gain COVID-19 research experience

JOHNSON CITY — A summer research program at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine led to an opportunity for medical students to gain COVID-19 research experience.
Dr. Donald Hoover, professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, mentored two second-year medical students, Fulton Robinson and Ryan Mihealsick, during Quillen’s Medical Student Summer Research Program held last summer. The students had the opportunity to participate in the conception, planning, implementation and publication of research focusing on cardiac morbidity and mortality related to COVID-19 infection. 
Their mini-review, “Role of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and pericytes in cardiac complications of COVID-19 infection,” appeared in the American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology.
The review focuses primarily on “mechanisms that contribute to acute cardiac injury and dysfunction, which are common in patients with severe disease.” The paper also includes some primary data showing that the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, ACE2, is expressed by pericytes in human hearts. Pericytes have been identified recently as a major site of ACE2 expression in the heart and vasculature, and viral infection of these cells might contribute to cardiovascular injury in COVID-19.
“While hands-on research was not possible due to the pandemic, Ryan, Fulton, and I took full advantage of the internet and Zoom technology to develop the topic and outline for the review, search and discuss relevant literature, and collaborate on writing and refining the manuscript,” Hoover said. “We also discussed the design of immunohistochemistry experiments done in my laboratory and reviewed stained section jointly by Zoom. Working on this project was a rewarding experience for all of us.”
The ETSU Center of Excellence in Inflammation, Infectious Disease, and Immunity supported this research financially with the purchase of antibodies used in the study.
To learn more about Quillen College of Medicine, www.etsu.edu/com.