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Cedars-Sinai Presents Stem Cell Program and Essay Contest for High School Students

Educational Program Will Be on March 11; Essay Contest Deadline Is March 3

Los Angeles - Feb. 26, 2014 - High school students may compete for essay awards and attend a free educational program on stem cells sponsored by the Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurosurgery. Deadline for essay entries is March 3.

All high school students – essayists or not – and parents and teachers are invited to the March 11 program, "Introduction to the World of Stem Cells," from 5 to 7 p.m. Essay contest winners – competing for an e-tablet and other education-oriented prizes – will be announced.

John Yu, MD, neurosurgeon, stem cell research scientist, vice chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and director of surgical neuro-oncology, will lead the program. He and other researchers at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute have made important discoveries about certain stem cells that have the potential to become brain cells. Many of Yu's colleagues, such as those at the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute and the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, also research and employ stem cell technologies.

Clive Svendsen, PhD, professor of biomedical sciences, professor of medicine and director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute, will be a featured speaker. Svendsen's primary research focus is modeling and treating neurodegenerative disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, using a combination of stem cells and powerful growth factors.

Ahmed Ibrahim, who has a master's degree in public health and is in Cedars-Sinai's Graduate Program in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine, also will speak. As a high school student, Ibrahim participated in a summer research project at Cedars-Sinai. He now conducts stem cell research at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, which in 2009 performed the first procedure in which a heart attack patient's tissue was used to grow specialized stem cells that were injected back into the heart. The researchers have found significant reduction in the size of heart attack-caused scars in patients who underwent the experimental stem cell procedure, compared to other heart attack patients who did not receive the experimental therapy.

Additionally, Andrew Kahng, a college student working in Yu's laboratory, will describe his experience in stem cell research.

Students who choose to participate in the contest must submit an essay on any one of four topics:

  1. How do stem cells differentiate into adult cells? How can these processes be manipulated to generate new tissues?
  2. Discuss the recent successes of the use of stem cells in therapy for human disease.
  3. Discuss the challenges of making stem cell therapies more viable for human use.
  4. What are stem cells and how do they work? How do embryonic differ from adult stem cells? Which stem cells have seen success in their intended use for human therapies?

Essay details and guidelines are available online here. Essay-related questions and submissions may be sent to Samantha Phu at phus@cshs.org.

"Introduction to the World of Stem Cells," which will be in Cedars-Sinai's Harvey Morse Auditorium, is one of two programs to be presented by the Department of Neurosurgery during Brain Awareness Week, March 10-16. The annual "Brainworks" program for seventh- and eighth-graders will be from 10 a.m. to 1:10 p.m. March 10.