The Meena Madhur Lab
Hypertension is a leading cause of worldwide morbidity and mortality, leading to stroke, myocardial infarction, vascular disease, and chronic kidney disease. Emerging evidence from our laboratory and others indicates that hypertension is an inflammatory process in which T cells and T cell-derived cytokines play a central role. Despite this evidence, there are currently no treatments for hypertension that target the immune system. We were the first to demonstrate a critical role for the pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin 17A (IL17A), in angiotensin II induced hypertension and vascular dysfunction. When given angiotensin II, mice lacking IL17A have reduced blood pressure and preserved vascular function compared to normal mice. Recent data demonstrates that salt can directly influence naive T cells to differentiate into IL17 producing cells. How T cells can sense and respond to salt is unknown. My current research focus is how T cells and T cell-derived cytokines promote hypertension and renal/vascular dysfunction.
Navya Thakkar is an undergraduate junior at Vanderbilt University. Through her childhood, Thakkar's heart has always led her to art, but her talents directed her towards the biological sciences. She realized very early on that while her thinking was extremely practical, the output of her processing was very visually creative. Growing up, she honed her painting skills through self-taught techniques, using the internet as her main resource to learn how to make art, but she craved for more instruction to better her technique. Starting college, Thakkar decided to major in Biology and Math, intending to continue with research and science, but never forgetting her passion for art.
She spent her freshman year at college torn between two seemingly very different fields, worried about ending up at a crossroads. However, while brainstorming for her Immersion Project, she discovered ArtLab at the Wond'ry. This program combined art and science to create an interdisciplinary field; Thakkar was immediately smitten, and dove head straight into her newest passion - science-art. Officially declaring her major in Biological Sciences, she decided to add as Art minor to her degree to learn and grow as an artist.
Through the mentorship of Dr. Kendra Oliver at ArtLab, Thakkar has been able to discover and learn more about the intersection between art and science. Nurturing her interest in the field, Thakkar did projects with the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research (VCAR) and about Antibody Antiviral Therapeutics, to grow as both, an artist and a scientist. Since abstract art was what Thakkar was attracted to as a child, she had to learn to adapt her style to accommodate for scientific models and precision. This meant being able to find a balance between highly technically accurate concepts and pleasing visuals that were attractive to the eye.
This summer, Thakkar has learned that art and science can not only co-exist in a field of study but are rather complimentary to each other. She continues to grow her passion in science-art and science communication and hopes to one day practice art as a way to bridge the gap between the science community and the public, using art as a mechanism to impart the critical information that scientific research discovers. Through this program, Thakkar has been given a community of young, inspiring science-artists just like herself that are equally passionate about two seemingly irreconcilable concepts. The mentorship and support provided in this program allows young scientists and artists to step outside of the norm and explore the new and unique ways to growing not only as science-artists, our perceptions of science and how it should be represented.