UBC PHD CANDIDATE MARYSOL GARCIA PATIÑO ON STUDYING ABROAD, CHOOSING A RESEARCH PATH, AND PURSUING NEW TREATMENTS FOR DIABETIC PATIENTS SUFFERING MYOCARDIAL ISCHEMIA-REPERFUSION INJURY
Prior to joining us at UBC Pharm Sci, you completed an undergraduate and Masters degree in Biotechnology Engineering at Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, in Monterrey, Mexico. How did you come to shift focus to pursuing a career in pharmaceutical research?
MGP: During my undergraduate studies, we learned about many pharmaceutical advances such as the monoclonal antibodies that were being developed, and the many drugs that were being derived from natural sources such as Paclitaxel (Taxol). While the number of discoveries continues to grow at an exponential rate, there are many prevailing health problems that remain unsolved.
This is what inspired me to concentrate on research and pursue a Masters degree, where I focused on the anti-inflammatory properties of compounds derived from natural sources. I used to purify and identify these chemical compounds, and then test them in vitro. Along the way, I became interested in the molecular mechanisms involved in such biological responses. I was eager to take this a step further and understand these mechanisms, and felt that shifting my focus to pharmaceutical research would be the best way to do so.
What inspired you to move to Canada from Mexico and study at UBC Pharm Sci?
MGP: Scientific research in Mexico has flourished over the past few years. However, I've always felt that studying abroad would not only be intellectually enriching, but would also help me to grow as a person and broaden my perspective of the world.
Canada is a diverse country with a multicultural society, and UBC is a world-renowned university with a focus on collaboration. When I decided to pursue my PhD studies, I conducted an extensive search of all the Canadian schools that offered a PhD program in pharmaceutical sciences. UBC Pharm Sci was one of my top choices because of the type of research being undertaken here.
You're currently working in Dr. Kath MacLeod's molecular and cellular pharmacology research group. Can you tell us more about your research?
MGP: My research project focuses on understanding the role of Rho Kinase 2 (ROCK2) in myocardial ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury during diabetes. When a patient suffers a myocardial infarction, blood flow to a section of the heart is interrupted. This means that oxygenated blood is no longer supplied and the heart enters a state called ischemia. In order to avoid this, blood flow is restored by a medical procedure known as reperfusion. The problem is, reperfusion causes irreversible damage to the heart – a condition we call myocardial I/R injury.
Diabetic patients have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular conditions, regardless of other factors such as age, obesity, high cholesterol, the presence of hypertension, and coronary artery disease. This phenomenon is known as diabetic cardiomyopathy. Our lab previously demonstrated that the ROCK2 contributes to the development of diabetic cardiomyopathy, but its role in myocardial I/R injury during diabetes is still not known. This is the main focus of my research.
How do you hope your research in this area will improve health prospects for diabetic patients who have suffered a myocardial infarction?
MGP: Currently there are very few choices for the treatment of myocardial I/R injury, and many efforts have been made to find new cardioprotective therapies. If our hypothesis is correct, our studies would place isoform-selective inhibitors of ROCK2 as possible novel therapeutics against ischemia-reperfusion injury for diabetic patients that have suffered a myocardial injury.
What advice would you share with individuals considering graduate school at UBC Pharm Sci?
MGP: Studying at UBC Pharm Sci has been a truly enriching experience for me. There is a great diversity of research being performed here, and the day-to-day interaction with other graduate students has opened my mind to different areas of pharmaceutical research. This is incredibly important for the development of any MSc or PhD student and is something that I recommend prospective graduate students keep in mind.
Image Credits: (Header) Ivan Yastrebov, UBC Pharm Sci. All other images thanks to Marysol Garcia Patiño.
About this series
Graduate Student Spotlight is an ongoing interview series designed to highlight our exceptional PhD and MSc candidates and their work, achievements, and experiences at UBC Pharm Sci.