Nicholas Arnold: Researching Circadian Rhythms in Muscle Biology

Nicholas Arnold’s research at the Center for Muscle Biology in Kentucky focused on the role of circadian rhythms in muscle biology, or the daily cycle of processes that get booted up or shut down at day and night.

Reese senior Nicholas Arnold used his Alma Venture grant to do summer research and will soon have a publication to his name — something that will set him apart when he applies for graduate schools.

In summer 2015, Arnold, who is majoring in biology and business administration, had the opportunity to work under Dr. Karyn Esser in the Center for Muscle Biology at the University of Kentucky.

<em>Nicholas Arnold<br><br></em>Nicholas Arnold

His research focused on the role of circadian rhythms in muscle biology, or the daily cycle of processes that get booted up or shut down at day and night. Up until 10 years ago, researchers thought that the brain completely controlled circadian rhythms.

“Every individual cell in every tissue in every part of your body has a molecular clock,” he says. “They are really the powerhouses behind this.”

The brain’s role is to keep these clocks in sync. Two genes called BMAL1 and CLOCK are responsible for telling cells to make proteins and express certain genes at certain times of day. Using cell cultures and mouse models, Arnold studied which genes were expressed and which proteins were created.

“We actually had different models where we would remove the clock and see basically what went wrong — and the answer was ‘a lot,’” he says.

Arnold first learned about Esser’s research when she visited campus to present her research to students in the Integrative Physiology and Health Science department.

Professor Karen Ball invited Arnold and other students to go out to dinner with Esser. He spoke with Esser at the restaurant and found her work fascinating.

“Two weeks went by, and Dr. Ball came back to me and said, ‘Dr. Esser really wants you to know that she’s got a research position available, and you’re welcome to come fill that position for her,’” he says.

He eagerly accepted the offer — contingent upon receiving funding from the Alma Venture grant. He applied and was approved for the full $2,500.

“Some students — and myself included — might not be able to take that jump to go somewhere new and not have a steady-paying job locked in,” he says. “The Venture grant enabled me to go on that journey, that adventure, without a risk or detriment to my future finances.”

Before he completed his Alma Venture experience, he knew he wanted to do research in medicine, but wasn’t sure beyond that. The experience has given him a greater sense of direction.

An abstract with his name on it was submitted to the Experimental Biology Conference, which took place in San Diego in April 2016.

Story published on February 11, 2016