Stem cells. The building blocks of life. The cure for the future.
Today, schools are educating students on basic knowledge of the world and skills that are needed to succeed. However, many of these skills are being questioned by students on how they will be applied to the real world. Seeing real life applications of stem cells that I had only learned about theoretically in my biotechnology class has really opened my eyes to how knowledge being taught at school is bridged to the real world.
Working at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures inside the GMP facility, I learned a lot about sterile laboratory techniques that are required for cell culture to engineer therapeutics that are used to treat patients. Culturing cells is not only about technique, but it also requires time and patience. Being taught just basic knowledge of cells at school, learning about cell therapy was different than I thought it would be. I never really thought about how cells can be cultured in vitro with growth factors that allow them to develop and expand. I was surprised by the complexity of creating therapeutics that are used to treat patients at the hospital.
The introduction to stem cells class that my mentor, Gerhard Bauer, is teaching has changed my perspective on stem cells and medical research in general. At school, I only learned about how stem cells have the potential to differentiate into other cells. In this class, we learned about the different types of stem cells (hematopoietic, mesenchymal, embryonic, and induced pluripotent) and how they can be applied clinically to improve the quality of life and reduce suffering. Guest lectures from notable doctors and researchers have also broadened my scope of the applications of stem cells. Cardiologist John Laird taught us how stem cells could be used to treat cardiovascular diseases, and neurologist Vicki Wheelock taught us about Huntington’s disease and the potential for stem cell treatment in other neurological diseases.
Stem cells really have broad potential to treat diseases, disabilities, and conditions in which no therapeutics exist.