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Exploring the possibilities of regenerative medicine

June 7, 2017


Two weeks ago Bailey O’Hare ’19 didn’t know that much about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and she knew even less about regenerative medicine.

As part of a new summer workshop at Saint Mary’s University, O’Hare is getting an in-depth look at how the emerging field of regenerative medicine could one day help patients suffering from ALS—as well as a multitude of other diseases and ailments.

O’Hare and 18 other select undergraduate sophomore and junior science majors from seven colleges are participating in Saint Mary’s first Advancing Regenerative Medicine (ARM) grant-funded workshop May 29-June 9 on the Winona Campus.

O’Hare, a junior Biology major at Saint Mary’s, said that she hopes to pursue a career in medicine, and she knew that learning more about the fast-growing field would be beneficial. “In many cases traditional medicine is limited to treating the symptoms of a disease and unfortunately not solving the root cause of the problem,” she said.

The groundbreaking and evolving discipline of regenerative medicine has tremendous potential to impact the treatment of diseases affecting various organ systems—from tissue growth for burn victims to growing new vital organs, such as hearts and kidneys.

“The potential for self-repair can lead to an improvement in the quality of life—and even sustain life—for many patients,” O’Hare said. “Major breakthroughs are just around the corner. In many cases researchers are working to be able to take cells from a patient suffering from a disease or condition, treat them to become an induced pluripotent stem cell, and inject them back into the same patient. This is very important because it alleviates the risk of rejection due to the need to suppress the immune system when cells from another individual are used.”

As part of the hands-on workshop, students have been broken into teams for theoretical and practical learning experiences. O’Hare’s team is researching, writing, and presenting about ALS. Students are also working on two lab projects in the cell culture labs of Saint Mary’s new Science and Learning Center.

“We are currently working on cells that were extracted from a mouse liver and we are working to turn them into an induced pluripotent stem cell. Induced pluripotent stem cells are cells taken from adult tissue and then dedifferentiated back into a stem cell state,” O’Hare said. “We are also working with splenocytes, or spleen cells, from a mouse. B and T cells are specialized cells found within a spleen. We have had the wonderful opportunity to work with a flow cytometer, which identifies and potentially isolates cells based on molecules they express on the cell surface or intracellularly. Our cells were analyzed by the flow cytometer to determine the percentage of B cells and T cells in the splenocyte population.”

Each day guest speakers—from an orthopedic surgeon, to a physician scientist, to a medical ethicist—have been brought in to speak with participants. Students also will have the opportunity to tour the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“Although I am focused on direct patient contact, this workshop has helped me realize how much of a team aspect medicine really is,” O’Hare said. “Many people work behind the scenes to take these therapies from lab bench to bedside.

“I am so thankful for this opportunity,” O’Hare said. “The workshop has exceeded my expectations. I’ve enjoyed working on diseases or conditions with potential regenerative medicine treatments. They keep us busy, but we are all very excited each day to go back.”

The Advanced Regenerative Medicine workshop at Saint Mary’s is funded by a grant of nearly $100,000 from Regenerative Medicine Minnesota.

Participants in the workshop include:


Elizabeth Atneosen / Woodbury, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Katherine Banovetz / Dusseldorf, Germany / College of Saint Benedict

Lucas Campbell / Stillwater, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Christelle Cayton / Madison, Wis. / Macalester College

Kaitlin Geisenhof / Little Falls, Minn. / College of Saint Benedict

Madeline Gibson / Neoga, Ill. / Illinois Wesleyan University

William Gillach / Lindstrom, Minn. / Saint John’s University

Alexander Holm / Red Wing, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Zachary Kinney / Johnsburg, Ill. / Illinois Wesleyan University

Siri Larsen / Duluth, Minn. / Hamline University

Channelle Ndagire / Stamford, Conn. / Macalester College

Bailey O’Hare / Rushford, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Madlyn Perry / River Falls, Wis. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Madeline Reding / St. Paul, Minn. / Hamline University

Erica Ristow / Lindstrom, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Andrea Speltz / Rollingstone, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Raelynn Speltz / Altura, Minn. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Daniel Velazquez / Chicago, Ill. / Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Ching-Tzu (Jeanie) Yu / Milwaukee, Wis. / Wisconsin Lutheran College
Photo caption: Saint Mary’s biology student Bailey O’Hare, right, works in the lab as part of the university’s Regenerative Medicine Workshop.