y olog resea i rd & clinical rc a c training
matter Adam Jara balances heart research with clinical training in unique program by J es s i c a Sa lern o photography by ROB HA RDIN
As Adam Jara was planning for a career in laboratory research, he had the opportunity to work with a general surgeon who allowed him to observe procedures such as gall bladder removals and hernia repairs. Jara recalls that the doctor encouraged him to pursue medical school, arguing that practicing medicine is a direct way to positively impact the life of a human being. Torn between earning a Ph.D. or a medical degree, Jara soon learned that at Ohio University, he could do both. The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine offers a dual degree program that allows participants to pursue an intensive research program in addition to medical school education. After completing two years of courses in osteopathic medicine, Jara is now in his third year of research for his doctoral degree. He’s engaged in a study of how growth hormone regulates heart function, under the guidance of John Kopchick, Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar and Professor of Molecular Biology. While Jara admits that the duration of the dual degree program—about seven years—was intimidating at first, he describes his experience as “wonderful” and says that the last five years have flown by. “I am excited to begin my clinical rotations where I can hopefully approach the experience from a research perspective and become involved in translational projects,” he says. Kopchick, who has been very supportive of Jara’s pursuit of the dual degree, serves as a model for how to combine success in both research and medicine. His discovery of a growth hormone receptor antagonist in the laboratory led to the development of a drug for people with acromegaly, a form of gigantism. The drug, SOMAVERT®(pegvisomant for injection), is marketed by Pfizer. At the Edison Biotechnology Institute, Kopchick and Jara study mice that lack the receptor for growth hormone, specifically in the heart tissue. The goal of his research is to understand how growth hormone affects the function and structure of the heart. The research has potential clinical applications. A growth hormone supplement may be prescribed to children with delayed growth, and it’s also been used in experimental treatments for heart failure. However, growth
(Right) John Kopchick, left, oversees the laboratory research conducted by Adam Jara, right, that explores the impact of the lack of growth hormone on heart tissue.