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Stokes Lab Research

Our lab uses animal models to investigate the following research areas:  

  • Effects of e-cigarette exposure, both acute and chronic, on adult and adolescent lungs, with outcomes assessing lung physiology (function) and anatomy (structure)

  • Prepubescent e-cigarette exposure effects on puberty and mating behavior

  • The role of progesterone and estrogen in ventilatory regulation

  • The effects of vaping on cardiovascular fitness and muscle composition

The Stokes Lab has many projects in the works and if you are interested in research experience or have a new project idea Contact Us to learn more about the lab!

Available projects include...

  • Treadmill optimization and protocol testing

    • And eventually... effects of e-cigarette exposure on aerobic fitness

  • Hindlimb strength training apparatus revisions and testing

  • Acute effects of e-cigarette exposure on adult rats 

    • Start with data analysis and then design and execute follow-up study​

  • Or, Share your own research ideas! 

Why Do We Care About Vaping? 

Electronic nicotine delivery methods (e-cigarettes) are an emerging and rapidly growing class of tobacco products used to deliver nicotine in a vaporized (aerosol) form. As of 2014, e-cigarettes are the most common tobacco product used by youth and young adults and e-cigarette use is associated with the use of other tobacco products. The popularity of these products and growing use among youth is a public health concern as nicotine exposure during adolescence poses risk to the developing brain. Furthermore, the effects of the aerosol on lung physiology and tissue health, both during adolescent and adulthood is under active investigation. The scientific community is still uncovering the effects of the delivery vehicle (“juice”) and nicotine on lung immune health and lung function.

Woman Vaping
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What we know  (...not much) 

  • Recent research using animal models to investigate the effects of short and long-term e-cigarette or “juice” exposure on lung tissue health reveal histopathological changes in respiratory tissue and increased lung tissue immune cell activation

  • Cardiovascular health may also be compromised with chronic e-cigarette exposure further complicating the possible health effects

  • Through research we are learning that e-cigarettes are not risk free, and pose a whole new host of threats to the respiratory system and possibly other systems

Our Methods

Whole Body Plethysmography

  • Ventilation (breathing) is recorded in awake and alert animals allowing for analysis of many ventilation parameters such as tidal volume (breath volume) and frequency

  • We can then use this data to investigate changes to an animals breathing patterns with vape exposure



Vape Exposure Chambers

  • We built a system with Arduino controlled pumps connected to chambers to expose rats to e-cigarette vapor, vehicle solution, or air

  • Using these chambers we can control the amount of vape that the rat is exposed to as well as the time of exposure in the chamber


Tissue Assays and Histology

  • At the end of the study tissue is collected for analysis either by molecular assay (RT-PCR, Western Blot, ELISA, etc.) or histology depending on the study goals

  • Histology allows us to view the morphology of the tissue and detect any possible changes in tissue integrity 


Aerobic Fitness and Strength Assessments for Rats

  • We have a new 2-lane rat treadmill for aerobic fitness testing 

  • A hindlimb strength training apparatus is in progress! 

rat pleth.jpg

What you will learn working in the Stokes Lab

  • How to form a research question, hypothesis, and experimental design based on current published literature

  • How to critically evaluate research methods and data

    • Both your own, and others'​

  • Research techniques, including animal handling and behavioral assessments, dissections, molecular pathology assays, and tissue staining and microscopy

  • How to communicate your research to anyone and everyone! 

  • Patience! Research takes time and often requires multiple attempts with protocol modifications along the way 

  • That research is fun and a great way to build both problem solving and time management skills

Still interested? Follow Toprosaur to the lab! 

Why I [Dr. Stokes] love working with students in the research lab: 

My interest in research began as an undergraduate, at The University of Texas at Austin, where I was very fortunate to have a graduate student mentor who was driven, patient, and sincerely interested in allowing new students ask questions, fail, and try any technique they wanted. This supportive environment introduced to me the complexities of neural signaling in the brain and I was mystified by something that I knew we may never fully understand, but I wanted to try. In the hands of passionate and talented mentors, I was guided through a project investigating the effects of alcohol consumption on inflammation in the brain. I will never forget the first time I saw a mouse brain section light up in three different beautifully fluorescent colors: WOW! I was hooked. Right then I realized that I now had the knowledge and tools to color a brain, and I wanted to do this every single day. Fast forward to a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and Postdoctoral Research in the neural control of breathing, and I am still captivated by the colorful brain images that I get to create every day.

Figure 1: One of my first confocal images as a graduate student. Microglia in the mouse spinal cord. 

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