This year’s Inland Empire Stem Cell Consortium Symposium (IESCC) on Nov. 20, brought together researchers in the field to inform CSUSB students about the various applications of Stem Cell research.
The event brought a full house to the SMSU theater where Professor of Radiation Oncology at UCI, and Keynote speaker Dr. Charles Limoli, explained that stem cells “can theoretically be used to hasten the recovery of any damaged tissue in the body.”
The focus of Limoli’s research is on stem cells and their applications to brain recovery treatment. “People survive cancer, but the quality of their life can vary tremendously,” he stated.
Limoli is referring to a condition known as “Chemo Brain,” which results from chemotherapy that kills cancer cells but also kills normal tissues in the brain. The result is neurocognitive complications, similar to advanced dementia.
With advances in stem cell research, Limoli believes that such damage to the brain can be repaired.
Other presentations throughout the day varied on their stem cell research.
One student from UC Riverside, Lauren Walker, focused her research on the causes of birth defects with embryonic stem cells. Her presentation examined how tobacco products affect pregnant women, while also questioning whether drug testing in labs is adequate. The answer: lab mice are not equivalent to humans.
Not all research was presented in the SMSU theater though. Some students and researchers presented at the SMSU event center, where posters were set up side by side, allowing attendees to choose works that interested them.
One former student of CSUSB, Jesse Ventura, now works in a UCR toxicology lab. “My project focuses on testing the cytotoxicity of electronic cigarettes,” he said. According to Ventura, heated metals found in e-cigarettes are inhaled by smokers, posing health concerns to pregnant women.
The most exceptional poster presenters were recognized during the student award segment of the event.
First place was awarded to Steven Sera for his poster presentation titled “miR361 Regulates Prickle Expression Allowing for Proper Osteogenesis,” which is co-authored with Dorota Kaniowska and Nicole zur Nieden.
Before the afternoon presentations began in the SMSU theater, guest speaker Alysia Padilla shared the story of her daughter, Evangelina, who survived a serious medical condition due to medicine created using stem cells.
Her daughter suffered from severe combined immunodeficiency and underwent two years of isolation before it was safe for Evangelina to be exposed to the world. Padilla was at times emotional during her speech but is now thankful to everyone responsible for curing her child.
Presenters at the symposium made clear the usefulness of stem cells, yet ethical concerns are sometimes raised regarding the use of human fetuses for research.
“There hasn’t been a single fetus or a single abortion that has taken place so that scientists can get embryonic stem cells,” said Professor of Biology Dr. Bournias.
Instead, scientists acquire stem cells from the left-over eggs of in vitro fertilization, a process which some couples use if the normal path to pregnancy is unavailable to them. Multiple eggs are fertilized in the process. Since only one is needed for pregnancy, the rest, with the consent of the couple, are used for research.
“[Our club] is the main organizer for this, with the help of our advisor Dr. Bournias. We help everything get ready by doing the program, getting the food, doing the name tags, and other logistics of it,” stated President of the Student Society for Stem Cell Research Jazmin Garcia.
Though the club generally consists of bio-medical students, Garcia says that the club is open to anyone who is interested.
One of the goals of the Consortium is to make the research on stem cells better known in the community. In order to meet this goal, the location of the Symposium will be moved on a yearly basis.