Stem Cells and Regeneration: From Aquatic Research Organisms to Mammals

Spring Quarter: March 18 - April 9, 2024
Instructor: Karen Echeverri (MBL)
UChicago Course Number: BIOS27750

Course Description:

This course will focus on contemporary stem cell biology and regeneration with emphasis on molecular mechanisms and applications. Topics include embryonic stem (ES) cells, tissue-specific stem cells, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and their potential uses in human disease and natural regeneration in various animal species. The course will cover the history of stem cell discoveries through the latest advances, including genome-wide profiling, targeted gene editing, and other techniques used in stem cell research and manipulation. A portion of the course will consist of modules where specific stem cell types will be discussed together with relevant diseases they could impact (i.e. stem cells and neurodegeneration). Other topics include: cellular reprogramming, stem cell/tissue engineering, stem cells in invertebrate that naturally regenerate, vertebrate regeneration.

Course Structure:

  • Lectures (9:00-9:50am): Morning throughout the course
  • Journal Club (10:00-10:50am): You will learn how to read a primary research article and how to talk about the data. You will work in teams to present primary research articles.
  • Labs (1:30-4:00pm): First 7 days of the course, everyone will do the same lab experiments learning to work with different organisms.
  • Research projects: In this section, you will apply what you learned in the lectures and labs to a real research project. We will help you, but you will complete the experimental design, lab work, imaging, and analysis. You will be using the same tools and approaches as we do in our own labs. You will be leading your own research project but also, you will be working as part of a team. 
Pink and black axolotls in the lab.
Axolotls in the lab. Credit: Dee Sullivan
Cross-section through a regenerating Axolotl spinal cord.
Cross-section through a regenerating Axolotl spinal cord. Credit: Sarah Walker
Wholemount staining of a growing Nematostella.
Wholemount staining of a growing Nematostella. Credit: Karen Echeverri

Course Objectives:

The course will provide students with knowledge of wide-ranging topics related to stem cell and regenerative biology, including: a brief history of the field, research on animal models of regeneration, tissue engineering, and the political and ethical issues surrounding the stem cell debate. As part of the learning objectives of this course students will be able to:

  1. List the properties that define a stem cell;
  2. Explain how stem cells are derived for scientific research.
  3. Compare and contrast tissue-specific stem cell types (e.g., blood, skin), and the basic mechanisms that regulate them.
  4. List common and extrapolate potential clinical use(s) of stem cells.
  5. Compare and contrast invertebrate and vertebrate animal models of regeneration research; and,
  6. Assess the ethical and political issues related to stem cell research.