Lauren Houchin


Lauren Houchin





Lauren Houchin was born and raised in Merritt Island, Florida. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences and is part of the Burnett Medical Scholars program through the Burnett Honors College. Her interest in cardiovascular function and disease led her to become an undergraduate researcher in the Cardiovascular and Metabolic research division of the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences under Dr. Steven Ebert. Lauren is currently researching the expression of various adenylate cyclase isoforms in the developing heart, from the early embryonic stages to adulthood. To date, she has been a co-author on posters presented at the American Psychological Association National Conference and the UCF College of Medicine Focused Inquiry and Research Experience (FIRE) Conference, and she has presented at both the Latino Medical Student Association National Conference and the UCF Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence. Outside of the classroom, Lauren is an avid volunteer and a peer mentor for the Burnett Medical Scholars program. In her free time, she enjoys playing golf and going to the beach. She plans to attend medical school and become a physician.

Faculty Mentor

Steven N. Ebert, Ph.D. Director, Focused Inquiry & Research Experience (FIRE) Module Coordinator, M.D./Ph.D. and IMS Programs in Biomedical Sciences Associate Professor, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences Division of Metabolic and Cardiovascular Sciences (D-MACS) College of Medicine, University of Central Florida

Undergraduate Major

Biomedical Sciences

Future Plans

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)


Title: Isoform-Specific Expression of Adenylate Cyclase in Cardiac Development

Principal Investigator: Steven N. Ebert, Ph.D.

Authors: Lauren A. Houchin1, Aliyah Mohammed2, Sanjana Manja1, and Steven N. Ebert, Ph.D.1

Institution: 1Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Orlando, FL

2Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

Abstract: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. While many factors can contribute to heart disease, stress plays a significant role. To better understand the mechanisms underlying the impact of stress on cardiovascular function, we chose to focus on the adenylate cyclase (AC) family of isoforms as key mediators of stress hormone signaling. AC is activated in response to stress hormone signaling to produce cyclic AMP (cAMP) as a second messenger. There are at least 9 AC isoforms, all of which have different regulatory properties, but it is not clear which of these isoforms are expressed in the developing heart. Thus, this project seeks to establish a baseline expression of adenylate cyclase isoforms in the developing mouse heart to better understand the role of these isoforms in cardiac development. To accomplish this, we extracted RNA from flash-frozen hearts at embryonic days 10.5 and 15.5 (e10.5 and e15.5) as well as postnatal days 9 (juvenile) and 38 (pre-pubescent). Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was performed with isoform-specific primers. To verify the amplification, PCR products were run on ethidium bromide gels. Our initial results (n=5/group) show that many isoforms are undetected at e10.5, but are expressed from e15.5 onward. Only AC4 was robustly expressed at all ages. Though its function in the heart is currently unknown, AC4 has been previously shown to be downregulated in several forms of heart disease, including those linked to heart failure. Our results suggest that AC4 has an important developmental function from early in the embryonic period. Additionally, several isoforms were significantly upregulated (p < 0.05) in the heart at e15.5 when compared to P9 and at P38 when compared to P9, potentially indicating a developmental role for these isoforms. Further studies are underway to test the AC isoforms at later postnatal and adult ages.

Summer Research

Title: Breaking Down Broken Heart Syndrome: The Role of Intrinsic Cardiac Adrenergic Cells

Principal Investigator: Steven N. Ebert, Ph.D.

Authors: Alexandra Csortan, Sanjana Manja, Lauren Houchin, Candice Baker, Ph.D., and Steven N. Ebert, Ph.D.

Institution: Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Orlando, FL

Abstract: Broken Heart Syndrome, also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, typically afflicts postmenopausal women and is characterized by transient left ventricular dysfunction without coronary artery obstruction following a significant emotional or physical stressor. Although the pathophysiology is unknown, recent research found increased intrinsic cardiac adrenergic cells that produce phenylethanolamine n-methyltransferase (Pnmt), which converts norepinephrine into epinephrine, in the postmenopausal murine left ventricle where Takotsubo cardiomyopathy occurs. This study sought to elucidate this connection and corroborate a theory that increased intrinsic cardiac catecholamine production following menopause underlies the pathophysiology. The study tested the hypothesis that postmenopausal female murine hearts express greater levels of Pnmt RNA than premenopausal female murine hearts. Hearts and adrenal glands from eight oophorectomized postmenopausal female and eight premenopausal female C57BL/6 mice were collected. RNA was extracted from each sample then viable samples were reverse transcribed to cDNA and quantitative PCR (qPCR) performed. Data from qPCR was calculated using the ddCT method and normalized average Pnmt RNA expression was analyzed using two sample t-Tests. Average murine heart Pnmt RNA expression was not significantly different between postmenopausal (Mean 1.165, SD 0.395) and premenopausal females (Mean 1.038, SD 0.300). Average murine adrenal Pnmt RNA expression was also not significantly different between postmenopausal (Mean 1.882, SD 0.991) and premenopausal (Mean 2.038, SD 2.085) females. Therefore, the results do not support the initial hypothesis. Future experiments will measure Pnmt protein and adrenergic hormone cardiac levels pre- and post-menopause to more precisely ascertain the molecular mechanisms underlying postmenopausal women’s increased susceptibility to Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Title: Evaluation of Available Internet Resources for Parents of Children with ADHD

Principal Investigator: Kristi Alexander, Ph.D.

Authors: Kristi Alexander, Ph.D. 1, Kathryn J. Ward, M.A.2, Lauren Houchin1, and Kylie McCarty1

Institution: 1University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL

2Alliant International University, San Diego, CA

Abstract: For parents of children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there is a plethora of information regarding the disorder available on the internet. But how accurate is the information parents are provided? The purpose of this study was to examine the completeness and accuracy of the information available on ADHD websites that are targeted toward parents of children with ADHD. To accomplish this goal, a list of 33 websites was compiled by using different internet browsers to search for the phrase “children with ADHD” and selecting relevant websites that were the most readily accessible. Newspaper articles, opinion pieces, and medical journal websites were omitted from the study in order to focus on the resources most likely to be used by parents. Subsequently, the websites were evaluated by two independent raters to determine the amount and accuracy of the information provided. In total, 20 information categories related to ADHD were examined, including diagnostic criteria, behavioral therapies and parent training. A rating of -1 was given for inaccurate information, 0 for no mention of the subject, and +1 for accurate information. The highest possible score was 20. Overall, the data set showed a mean score of 12.09 (SD = 5.03). The majority (76%) of websites discussed behavioral therapies for ADHD, while 63.6% discussed medication options. Additionally, 87.3% referred parents to a medical or mental health professional for further information. In contrast, only 45% of websites discussed in-home behavioral modification systems for parents, such as reward charts, and only 21% cited an author of the information listed. Moreover, 16% of the websites were authored by individuals who did not demonstrate competency or credentials sufficient to support their guidance (examples of these authors include journalists and bloggers). Although no external criteria for accuracy currently exist, the overall low ratings suggest that most websites provide parents with minimal information regarding psychological interventions for children with ADHD.


Medicine and Health Sciences Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Biology, Developmental biology

Lauren Houchin