February 23, 2024

Dr. Nathaniel Heyman, assissant professor of biology, checks up on his zebrafish several hours after giving them 5–hour Energy drink solution. Katey Lee | Banner

Professors from the Natural and Mathematical Sciences Department at California Baptist University have recently been awarded funds that have been directed to opening new research opportunities.

Dr. Nathanael Heyman, assistant professor of biology, oversees one of the most recent projects.

This semester, Heyman has been directing three students from the Natural and Mathematical Sciences Department through an investigation of the effects of energy drink solutions on zebrafish.

“The purpose is not to see what 5-hour energy drinks does to fish, but to find good models to study what you can do on humans,” Heyman said.

Spencer Arnold, senior molecular biology and biochemistry major; Gabriela Lumagui, senior biology major; and Amairani Villa, sophomore biology major, are the students under Heyman’s watch. They decided to study the effects of energy drinks on the zebrafish.

CBU is not new to research on animal models, but in order to bring more lab experience outside of the classroom, professors have broadened the spectrum for capstone and research projects by incorporating zebrafish models.

Zebrafish were exposed to 5-Hour Energy solution to determine their behavior and cardiovascular function.

“The cool thing about zebrafish is that after you extract the hearts, they still beat,” Arnold said. “If you culture them and have them in an incubator, they last for a very long time.”

The group of students found the zebrafish responded in a different manner than expected.

“The heart rate average was about 141 in three fish before the energy drinks, and then it went down to about 85,” Heyman said. It is expected the hearts of the fish will palpitate faster on an energy drink solution, but that is not the case for the zebrafish. Their heart rates decrease and this can serve for future research as to what mechanism is being used to slow heart rates.

“Everything we do is approved by a campus committee for IACUC (International Animal Care and Use Committee),” Heyman said. “You can’t do anything you want. You have to follow standard protocols.”

This committee, constructed by CBU faculty and professional members, follows guidelines set by the National Research Council Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.

They determine whether or not the use of animals in research on this campus is in compliance by the Federal Animal Welfare Regulations in the NRC guide.

CBU was offered the opportunity to be represented by this research group to present their findings at the 40th Annual West Coast Biological Science Undergraduate Research Conference on April 25.

“We are the first group to present at this seminar from CBU, and that’s exciting,” Arnold said. “It is nice to show that we’re growing.”

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