Blog Global Health Center

Hematopoiesis development and a Malignancy Program retreat

Written by Ashley Marih Lugo Huerta, BS candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis; and participant in the 2023 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

This summer in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – RADIANCE track, I had the opportunity to work in the Schuettpelz lab alongside Mousumi Chakraborty, PhD, where I was introduced to her research on the regulation of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) function. HSCs are crucial because they can produce a continuous supply of all blood cell types over the course of an individual’s life. As multipotent cells, they have the capacity to differentiate into different hematopoietic lineages as well as to self-renew. Because abnormalities in the HSCs have been linked to the emergence of various hematological cancers like leukemia and lymphomas, we are investigating the impact that various receptors and their pathways have on HSC function.

The Hematopoietic Development and Malignancy Program (HDMP) is made up of a number of research teams with the shared objective of detecting the development of hematopoietic malignancies as well as researching their prevention and care. The HDMP consists of various members across the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, including program leaders Laura Schuettpelz, MD, PhD, Todd Fehniger, MD, PhD, and Geoffrey Uy, MD.  As a member of the Schuettpelz lab, I’ve had the opportunity to be included in their work-in-progress meetings and research seminars, and I attended their annual retreat.

Sign outside the Pediatric Research building where the author conducted research

The Hematopoietic Development and Malignancy Program Retreat was held on Wednesday, June 21, and involved several medical professionals and researchers from Siteman Cancer Center, Barnes Jewish Hospital, and the Washington University School of Medicine, who gathered to learn about and discuss recent developments in the field of hematology.

It seemed logical that a doctor with years of experience would be better qualified to attend than a summer researcher with only a few weeks of experience, so when I first arrived, I wasn’t sure if I should be there. However, as the event progressed, I realized that it was important for me to attend to show my support to various team members, such as my principal investigator, Laura Schuettpelz, MD, PhD, who hosted the event, and two of my mentors, Mousumi Chakraborty, PhD, and Luana Chiquetto Paracatu, PhD, who presented. One of the main things that caught my attention was the acknowledgments at the end of each slide, where many people thanked their families and teams, in addition to including some amusing and touching images.

After we finished with all of the slideshow presentations, we transitioned to another room filled with posters. I began to move around and take in the various presentations when I became aware of the numerous students who were walking alongside me. Once I made my way back with my colleagues, a sense of belonging washed over me, along with a renewed motivation to continue doing research. In addition to reinforcing my love for hematology, this retreat taught me a ton and gave me the chance to meet the next generation of researchers.