Through their lens: Bryan Ruiz has a once-in-a-lifetime experience with two genes

This summer we’re sponsoring high school interns in stem cell labs throughout California. We asked those students to contribute to our Instagram photos and YouTube videos about life in the lab, and write about their experiences. 

Bryan Ruiz worked in the lab of Dr. Qi-Long Ying at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. 


During this summer, I was in Dr. Ying’s lab at USC that focuses on stem cell research. Prior to this, I had a one-week training course by the Stem Cell CORE program. Here, the people that educated and trained us provided a plethora of knowledge, and were also very enthusiastic. It felt as if I also gained new friendships along with someone I know that I can go to and ask questions relating to science.

Stem cell training was only one of many memories I had in this laboratory experience. During the summer I had two mentors whose research I contributed to. Their research concentrated on two promoter genes in which they believed these two genes contributed to embryonic stem cell (ESC) self-renewal. The two genes are called Tfcp2l1 and Klf2. These two genes were found to be important due to previous publications and microarray data.

To find their function and role in ESC self-renewal, we first had to verify whether or not Klf2 and Tfcp2l1 do contribute to ESC renewal. So we first over-expressed these two genes, then transfected these genes into mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC). The mESC were placed in two different media, one that contained Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS), and another one, N2B27, that is serum free.

The conditions in the media were that the media that contained FBS was Leukemia Inhibitory Factor free, and the N2B27 medium was dual inhibitor (2i) free. After that, we conducted assays such as AP staining and immunofluorescence to check whether or not the mESC have become other types of cells (differentiation). Our findings showed that in the FBS and LIF free condition, the over-expressed genes did make the cells undergo self-renewal. On the other hand, in the N2B27 and 2i free condition, the cells only conducted self-renewal if both over-expressed genes were transfected in one cell.

With this data, we can further study these two genes, and how they interact and contribute to signal transduction such as the JAK/STAT3 pathway.

Overall this was probably a once in a lifetime experience. Other than being educational and informative, I feel like I also have had a lot of fun, and gained many new friends. I felt like I have gotten a strong bond with my mentors. Although this summer experience is coming to an end I look forward to continuing my research when the school year begins because of the STAR program.

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