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Fighting For Research That Matters

Fri Sep 17, 2021
POTS, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, is an autonomic nervous system disorder that affects blood flow in between 1 million and 3 million Americans, typically women and young adults. Those numbers are growing as POTS and other forms of dysautonomia have been diagnosed as long-term impacts from COVID-19. The symptoms include fainting spells, seizures, respiratory issues and digestive trouble.Nina Kikel-Coury, a graduate student in Professor Cody Smith's lab, suffers from POTS which placed her at a higher risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. She needed to remain completely isolated during the pandemic and could no longer work alongside others in her research lab. But the team rallied around her.Her lab mates designated hours when Nina could work alone, and they continued her experiments when she couldn’t be present sending results via email or FaceTime. With all this support, Nina made a scientific breakthrough, discovering a new cell in the heart—cardiac nexus glia—which may help explain and treat conditions like hers.“Identifying cardiac nexus glia could have a huge impact, not only with the neuroscience field but also the cardiovascular field,” she says. “Currently no one knows why dysautonomia occurs in a lot of people. And so personally it’s really exciting to know that maybe we’re just one step closer to figuring out the cause of dysautonomia, and in particular, long term down the road maybe even POTS.”Read more: