Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Biological Sciences

First Advisor

John Spitsbergen

Second Advisor

Gabriel Alves


The direction of my research-based thesis answers the question of how exercise affects the cardiovascular system with aging in male and female rats. My study would highlight the important differences of the cardiovascular system of both sexes which could lead to sex-specific insight on the cardiovascular disease epidemic which prevails as the most common cause of death in the United States. The studies completed will test the hypothesis: neurotrophic factor will be higher in females than males due to the higher presence of estrogen in females. The trophic factor is predicted to increase in both males and females with regular cardiovascular exercise. I will observe changes of expression of GDNF, NGF, and innervation patterns over the course of a 3-month aging study. Use of vertebrae animals in research required all student researchers at Western Michigan University to complete Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) for Research Involving Animals as part of Institutional Animal Care and Usage Committee (IUCAC). The subjects tested will be rats ranging from 6-week, 8-week, and 12-week-old of both male and female sexes. One group will be the experimental group of (n=6) exercised rats that are placed in isolated cages with access to a running wheel. The control group of (n=6) sedentary rats are placed in cages without running wheel access. These rats are euthanized once aged properly via asphyxiation using a carbon dioxide chamber. Vitals (heart rate, blood pressure, and weight) were taken of each rat at the 4-week, 8-week, and 12-week periods of life. Ideally, I would’ve analyzed neurotrophic factor for my results but due to Covid-19 limitations to lab time and graduation time restrictions, the only data I was able to collect and analyze was their monthly vitals. Despite this loss of further analysis, this study’s results still allude to sex differences of cardiovascular health and levels of neurotrophic factor. This data shows that my initial study is still relevant for studying in the future.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Thesis Defense Presentation.pdf (240 kB)
Defense Presentation