Welcome to the USC EiHS Summer Program in Stem Cell ResearchThrough a unique ten-day training course or eight-week research internship, participants work hands-on with human stem cells in state-of-the-art research facilities. They learn about the latest advances in regenerative medicine and explore the relationship between stem cells, ethics and public policy. EiHS is the only program that offers comprehensive training in stem cell theory and research techniques to pre-college students.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are unspecified cells which differentiate to form cells with specialized physiological functions, such as neurons. Humans develop from a single stem cell called the zygote which is generated after an egg is fertilized by sperm. The zygote is a totipotent stem cell capable of making all of the cells in the adult human body. During early development the zygote undergoes rapid cell division and forms a structure known as a blastocyst. The blastocyst contains cells that can be isolated and grown in the laboratory. These so called embryonic stem cells (pictured above) are of great interest to biomedical scientists because they retain the ability to make any cell type in the adult human body and may one day be used to treat degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Cells with similar biological properties to human embryonic stem cells can also be generated by ‘reprogramming’ somatic cells like skin and blood cells. The reprogramming process is carried out by engineering somatic cells to express genes that enable them to turn into stem cells. These cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells and, have very similar properties to embryonic stem cells. In addition to embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells, small pockets of stem cells also exist in the adult body. These 'adult stem cells' play an important role in enabling the body to maintain tissues such as the skin which are continually being replaced and to repair damaged tissues.