For the signal-processing portion of my individual research I am doing work in the Black Lab under the supervision of Lauren Baugh and Monique Foster; two graduate students from the Black Lab. Most of professor Black’s research has to do with the heart and how important physical stimuli are to the highly specialized tissues of the heart, even on a cellular level. For this particular project I’m working with a partner, Rosemary Soucy, to develop an algorithm that will allow us to visually measure the conduction speed through muscle tissue. Our Matlab program will also project a branching network over the video to show the directionality of his electrical activity. Lauren and Monique two have provided us with microscope video of muscle cells contracting in response to an electrical stimulus in the presence of a voltage sensitive fluorescent dye. The dye causes each cell to glow as it contracts because of the change in membrane potential that mediates the contraction. We were able to isolate the contracting cells in the image, and used our algorithm to monitor the changes fluorescence of the cells inside the approximately fixed locations of the cells in the field of view. Based on this we will be able to determine when cells contract relative to their neighbors. This will enable us to determine the speed that cells are triggering their neighboring cells to contract, and whether the branching pattern of this stimulation has any consistent organization. The purpose of this project is to develop visual methods for these types of measurements and to make complicated analysis of heart tissues simpler. This will make experiments in the Black Lab easier and more efficient.
This project was very different from most of the other work I’ve done at tufts because it was totally centered around Matlab. All of the data we used had already been collected, so the only part of the project I worked on was coding the algorithm. It was challenging to get comfortable with Matlab over the course of a few weeks, but the algorithm we’ve developed has been successful so far, and the coding has been a challenging and interesting change of pace.