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For California High School Students, Cedars-Sinai Presents Stem Cell Essay Competition and Education Program

California high school students may compete for three $500 essay awards and attend a free educational program on stem cells sponsored by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Department of Neurosurgery. The winning authors also will be invited to spend a summer volunteering in a Cedars-Sinai laboratory, learning with stem cell neuroscientists.

“Stem cell technologies and therapies are in their early stages but we believe they hold great promise, which we only now are beginning to realize. We’re making this program available to high school students because they will be the next generation of scientists and we hope to introduce them to the exciting possibility of curing many diseases by replenishing or replacing defective cells with healthy new ones,” said John S. Yu, M.D., who will lead the program. He is a neurosurgeon, stem cell research scientist, director of surgical neuro-oncology and vice chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery.

Yu and other researchers at Cedars-Sinai’s Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute have made important discoveries about certain stem cells with potential to become brain cells (neurons). Many of Yu’s colleagues, such as those at the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute and the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, also are researching stem cell technologies and beginning to tap these in experimental treatments.

This call for stem cell research essays has been sent to Los Angeles-area science teachers; this competition is open to any high school student in the state. Papers are due April 10. Topics and guidelines may be found at www.cedars-sinai.edu/neuroconferences; questions may be sent to Marko Mijat at mijat@cshs.org.

The top essays will be selected by a committee and three awards will be presented at the educational program on stem cells, which will begin at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 28. Each winning essayist will be invited to volunteer in the summer for six weeks in the Teens in Science Program at Cedars-Sinai, learning with Yu and other stem cell scientists.

“This new program is another example of our commitment to young scientists, the future of neuroscience research, and the offer of hope for patients who suffer from devastating diseases,” said Keith L. Black, M.D., chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, which hosts the annual “Brainworks” program for seventh- and eighth-grade students. The department also offers the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience, which provides research funding for an undergraduate and a graduate student each year, and a neurosurgery residency program.

To sign up for the one-day “Introduction to the World of Stem Cells,” students need not also be participants in the essay competition; parents and teachers also are invited to the after-school program.

It will cover topics including: what stem cells are and how scientists use them; different types of cells; why there are differing scientific opinions about stem cells; adult versus embryonic stem cells; and how to prepare for a career working with stem cells. There will be a question-and-answer segment.

The free program will be in the Harvey Morse Auditorium at Cedars-Sinai. Registration is required and may be arranged online at www.cedars-sinai.edu/neuroconferences.