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Katarina Gustin

Hi, I'm Katarina

My name is Katarina Gustin and I am an AEP Undergraduate Research Scholar and TRELS Scholar. I'm a third year majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. My pronouns are she/her/hers.

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UC San Diego AEP undergrad scholar

My Research

I started off in the Natale Lab in the Department of OB/GYN and Reproductive Medicine in the Mentor Assistance Program (MAP) for two summers in high school. The Natale Lab is a placental research lab that studies various disease states in mouse models and their effects on placental development. I continued working in the Natale Lab starting my first quarter at UCSD in Fall 2017.

I received the URS Ledell Family Research Scholarship in the summer of 2018. The initial project I was going to work on fell through because the samples that we needed were not going to arrive in time. Instead, we began working on a project in conjunction with the Hardy Lab at Western University in Canada. This project focuses on the effects of THC on rat fetal and placental development. It is significant because many more women are using cannabis as a remedy for morning sickness, but there were no definitive studies showing the effects of THC during pregnancy prior to ours. THC was injected into rats during pregnancy consistent with daily use. The Hardy Lab found that there was a decreased pup weight in THC treated rats.  We found a change in placental vasculature in the labyrinth of the placenta in THC treated rats which is where nutrient exchange between the mother and fetus occurs. We also found a decrease in Glucose Transporter 1 (GLUT1) levels in treatment groups which transports glucose from mother to fetus. Both findings, along with decreased pup weight, suggest that THC alters placental vasculature and this alteration leads to a decrease in nutrient transport from mother to fetus. This shows that THC effects placental and fetal development.

The Natale Lab is now at Queen’s University in Canada and they hope to do more studies in the future involving THC and the placenta. I worked at the Natale Lab until June 2019 when they moved to Queen’s University. In that time, I was also a TRELS scholar and continued to work on other projects in the placental research sphere. The URS scholarship enabled me to work full time in the lab over the summer giving me the time needed to complete most of my work for this project.

My Future Plans

I plan to go to medical school after I finish my undergraduate studies. I am passionate about women’s health and reproductive medicine which is why I want to go into the medical field. My research at the Natale lab was an invaluable experience that led me on my chosen career path!

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