This project was, perhaps, the least expected adventure that I would be taking on going into my senior year at Westtown. If I had been told, as a freshman, that an entire class of my senior year would be centered around studying the effects of morphine on mice liver and kidneys, I would most likely have started wondering what kind of traumatic and scarring emotional event was going to happen to me in the next few years of my life. Nonetheless, here I am, flipping through text books and web pages, learning about terms like “nephrons” and “cytochrome P450.” The funny part is that these ‘mad-scientist’ esc terms are actually fascinating to me. In fact, this whole project is fascinating to me. The best part, however, is that it is real. My work is not purely for exploring my own interest but largely to potentially make a difference and impact the lives of people on a larger scale.
Opioid (Including drugs like morphine, heroin, opium) addiction takes a serious toll on one’s body over a period of continual use. The effects of opioid abuse is visible on the outside of people who are addicted to the drug, however, how is it visible on the inside? This is where my research comes in. Specifically focusing on the kidney and liver, I, along with Alex Nunes, will be investigating the differences in normal kidneys and livers versus their morphine affected counterparts. Ranging from microscopes to Western Blot tests, I will be diving into a thorough understanding of heroin’s impact on a molecular level of kidney and liver function.
The kidney and liver are both familiar names of organs in the human body, but what do they actually do? To answer this question, I will give a 12 year old’s definition of each.
The kidneys are two small bean shaped vacuum cleaners that live on either side of the lower spine. These little guys suck in blood, along with any waste floating in the bloodstream, and clean the blood with about a million little filters called “nephrons.” Inside the nephrons are components that are called glomerulus that let fluid and waste pass, but stop blood, proteins, and minerals from moving into the bladder. The clean bloodstream runs back into circulation through one tube, whereas the filtered waste flows down to the bladder where it will be released as urine.
The liver is a fatter fleshy organ that rests at the top right of one’s abdominal area. In fact, this is the largest internal organ for humans. The liver can grow and shrink, and contains a web of bile ducts. Bile ducts are thin tubes that stretch out from the center of the organ in all different directions. These bile ducts carry, unsurprisingly, bile, which is a digestive fluid that helps detoxify blood molecules as well as digest harmful molecules in the blood stream. The process of detoxification occurs in about 100,000 small lobules (because 99,000 wasn’t enough) that are scattered throughout the liver. Not only does the liver clean blood but it also stores nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. On top of that, the liver produces important proteins found in blood plasma, such as prothrombin and fibrinogen, which help blood clot to stop wounds from bleeding.
Both of these organs play important roles in the human body. As I gather information and data throughout the year, perhaps more knowledge will be understood of opioids’ impact on these organs. My hopes for the results of gathering this information and data are fairly broad. I simply want to make an impact on the scientific and medical world. Even if my contribution to the world is small, it would be a leap for me in my own growth as a science-driven student.