From the WUSTL Newsroom…
Four medical students at Washington University School of Medicine are among 68 students nationwide selected for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Medical Research Fellows Program.
The $2.8 million annual initiative is designed to develop the next generation of physician-scientists by giving students a full year of mentored research training with some of the nation’s top biomedical scientists. Each student applied with a mentor of his or her choice and submitted a research proposal. Projects by Washington University students will investigate chronic itch, immune cells and cancer, nerve cell death and the promise of diagnostic nanoparticles in detecting disease.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a science philanthropy aimed at advancing biomedical research and science education. The Medical Research Fellows Program has funded more than 1,600 students since it was established 26 years ago.
Third-year medical student Kow Essuman will work with mentor Jeffrey Milbrandt, MD, PhD, the James S. McDonnell Professor and head of the Department of Genetics. Essuman’s project will focus on a specific mechanism of cell death in neurons.
Second-year medical student Jessie Ge will spend the year at Stanford University, where she’ll investigate the use of biomarker-detecting nanoparticles that could indicate – through a patient’s skin – the presence of disease. The technology could eliminate the need for repeated blood draws to detect or track some cancers.
Second-year medical student Julia Wagner will complete her year of research with Washington University physician-scientist and mentor Todd Fehniger, MD, PhD. Fehniger’s lab found that pre-activating human NK cells with molecules called cytokines makes them more responsive to tumor cells. Wagner will investigate the unique properties of these pre-activated NK cells, including their potential role in cancer immunotherapy.
Third-year medical student Amy Xu is working with faculty mentor Brian Kim, MD, to investigate the immune regulation of chronic pruritus, or itch, in eczema. She wants to investigate the role protein-signaling molecules called cytokines may play in provoking chronic itch. Xu’s research could help identify targets for eczema-associated itch therapy.
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