Sun, Fun, and…Proteins? A Siena Summer Research Scholar Experience

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(Above) Proteins imaged by Divya this summer. Her research with Dr. Daniel Moriarty, Ph.D. involves identifying natural compounds that prevent the formation of protein aggregates in the body. 

In the early 1920s, Dr. Frederick Banting, through his groundbreaking medical discovery of insulin, completely altered the fate of millions of diabetics. As financiers rushed to Dr. Banting offering him millions for the patent, he declined the offer. Most individuals in his position wouldn’t think twice before profiting monetarily off such a discovery, but Dr. Banting did the complete opposite. He not only sold his rights to the University of Toronto for a dollar, but he also sold his own car to personally fund his research when the university’s money ran out. This was because Dr. Frederick Banting understood. He understood what it felt like to be a diabetic who helplessly fell victim to the disease. He understood because he felt the same pain when his best friend died from the disease. Dr. Banting understood that no price in the world could match the value of saving a diabetic’s life.

I have lived with diabetes for almost thirteen years now and can honestly share, though I rarely do, how much this disease has tested my spirits. I have almost experienced it all: from the calloused fingers, excessive thirstiness of high blood sugars, deliriousness and temporary paralysis of lows, the hospital stays after vomiting, the know-it-alls who think they know better about my disease than myself, the insulin pump’s low-cartridge tune alarming during a test, all the way to the look someone gives me when I eat a piece of candy. While I have experienced all these downsides of diabetes, not a single one truly measures the control I have over this disease.

I guess my story is also proof and support for how important Dr. Banting’s dedication to his research on insulin was. He made it possible for an individual like me to have the opportunity to share that with you. Though I may endure some taxing moments my diabetes presents, I am also fortunate enough to be able to manage and control my disease with a little medication.

You know, if anyone ever asked, I could come up with many other reasons for why I became involved with research at Siena, but the real reason is that it is my way of thanking Dr. Frederick Banting for the sacrifices he made. Because of his dedication, countless individuals like me have a chance to live a relatively healthy, normal life. I’ve realized that one of the gifts my disease has given me is the ability to feel and understand, at least to some extent, what pain any disease might bring to a patient and what value finding a new medicine or cure can truly hold for that patient and their family.

When I received my offer from Dr. Moriarty to be a Summer Research Scholar this past spring, I don’t think words can really describe the gratefulness and happiness that filled the world around me. Our project focuses on trying to find natural compounds that could potentially reverse or prevent the formation of particular protein aggregations. These protein aggregations are linked to causing many neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as other diseases such as Type II Diabetes.

I am grateful to have had the chance to work on this project because I finally had the opportunity to volunteer my time into a cause that could potentially improve the life and relieve some of the pain that an individual who had a disease caused by these protein aggregations experiences.I am very grateful and happy to be putting in any time I can into this cause. I think for any person who is or knows of someone living with a medical condition, any step, even a tiny one, towards giving someone a chance to live a better lifestyle is extremely valuable. And for me, one of my favorite parts of being a summer research scholar was realizing that I would be willing to volunteer my entire life to this kind of research work, even if my work made just a small contribution to improving an individual’s life. In my opinion, nothing is more valuable than knowing that my effort might raise the hope and courage of a patient.

Divya Dasani
Siena College Class of 2018, Albany Medical College Class of 2022

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