FASEB board member hosts congressional staff for lab tour

By | February 16, 2017

A Board member of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) demonstrated how local advocacy makes a difference by hosting congressional staff on a tour of laboratory facilities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). In late January, Luanne Kostelic, District Office Manager for Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), joined Hannah V. Carey, PhD, a professor in the Department of Comparative Biosciences in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, to learn about research underway on campus. Dr. Carey is also the FASEB Vice President-Elect for Science Policy and represents the American Physiological Society on the Federation’s Board of Directors.

FASEB Board Member Dr. Hannah Carey and Luanne Kostelic, District Office Manager for Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) . Used with permission. Credit: Hannah Carey, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

During the visit, Dr. Carey explained her laboratory’s research program, which focuses on basic science discoveries and their potential translation to biomedicine. Specifically, Dr. Carey studies how hibernating animals adapt to long periods with no food intake. For most mammals, the intestine is presented with food on a daily basis, and the absence of such “enteral” feeding for an extended time can negatively impact the structure and function of the intestine as well as other organs.

The results of these studies may provide new insight about healthy adaptive mechanisms that can be used to improve treatment for patients who require complete bowel rest and are receiving nutrients intravenously through total parenteral nutrition (TPN). Although essential for survival for some patients, TPN can be accompanied by serious risks. As a result, conducting research to better understand the mechanisms responsible for adverse events associated with TPN is especially important.  Dr. Carey and her collaborators were recently awarded a new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explore how hibernation affects the community of microbes that reside in the gut and the potential role of the gut microbiota in hibernation biology.

The tour also gave Representative Pocan’s aide an opportunity to see the Biotron Laboratory to learn more about this unique controlled-environment facility that supports plant, animal, and materials research and testing. Kostelic and Carey discussed the importance of sustained and predictable federal funding for such research, which Representative Pocan has a strong track record of supporting.

Carey’s team also shared concerns about the January 27 executive order on immigration. Dr. Carey noted that the recent NSF grant includes a team of scientists, some of whom immigrated to the U.S. for education and positions in academia. She emphasized that her lab’s research could not be done without the expertise of these collaborators, who are now members of the UW-Madison research community and faculty. Carey also pointed out the benefits of being able to bring scientists to the U.S. for face-to-face interactions at scientific meetings to share data and ideas.

Ms. Kostelic agreed to bring that information to Representative Pocan’s attention as an example of how the current ban will impact the U.S’s ability to retain its position as a world leader in science and technology. “Overall, it was a very productive encounter and is one of the easiest and most rewarding things I’ve done as an advocate for research,” said Dr. Carey.