“… a second home for me”

Submitted by Michal Fernandez – June 30, 2016

It’s been a whole week since I’ve started my internship program. The days have been filled with the hums of centrifuges and the sounds of liquid nitrogen tanks, yet strangely, I enjoy these sounds- it’s almost like becoming a second home for me. Throughout the week I’ve been busy  reading several articles and scientific journals assigned to me by my mentor- all in regards to retinal degeneration and general/advanced anatomy of the eye.; surprisingly, it is far more complex than I have expected, but, that does not deter me.

For the past few weeks, I’ve mostly been involved with activities related to histology. I’ve observed and helped a histologist with his given assignments such as immuno staining and/serial sectioning, to a certain degree. In regards to the eye, specifically the retina, I’ve been studying the general aspects of degeneration such as AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) and the general concepts of how such diseases perform and atrophy the retinal layers, mainly the photoreceptors.

Dr. Shaomei referenced me a previous study of her interest in regards to treatment of AMD. The treatment was basically to inject pluripotent stem cells (stem cells that can change into any somatic cell) in order to replace the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells to stop/delay the death of photoreceptors. I did learn about the cons of using stem cells however, such as ethical concerns regarding a highly effective line of stem cells, embryonic stem cells. These stem cells come from human embryos under the blastocyst stage so, it raises the ethical questions of harvesting a human embryo for stem cells. Currently though, I’m not really that involved with cell culture just yet, I’m still within the histology department of the lab, observing and helping to collect tissues and staining samples of interest.

I do enjoy it a lot in here although, having no access to the floor I’m assigned to daily, gets rather inconvenient at times. Nonetheless, this has been a rather fun experience for me, I’ve learned many different techniques and information regarding immunostaining and staining in general as well as getting an introduction to cell culturing and a deeper understanding about retinal anatomy.

Michael F & Dr. Wang
CIRM Spark Intern Michael Fernandez & his Mentor Dr. Shaomei Wang

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