University of Calgary

Stem cell research

Jan. 26, 2009

Stem cells: the possibilities are endless

Allison Van Winkle holds the bioreactor she uses to grow stem cells. / Photo: Ken Bendiktsen

Allison Van Winkle holds the bioreactor she uses to grow stem cells. / Photo: Ken Bendiktsen

Allison Van Winkle sees endless potential in embryonic stem cells. That’s why she’s trying to make it easier for researchers to study cellular development so they can find ways to use stem cells for the treatment of diseases and injuries.

Stem cells are grown in devices called bioreactors. It’s a very expensive process that limits the number of experiments that can be conducted. Van Winkle is trying to grow stem cells on a smaller scale and in a more cost-effective manner.

Van Winkle works in the Pharmaceutical Production Research Facility, the University of Calgary’s biotechnology and tissue engineering laboratory. She’s modifying the process of growing stem cells by reducing the size of the bioreactors. It’s a delicate procedure that requires complex calculations in order to maintain the viability of the cells. 

“Stem cell research has the potential to have significant impact when it comes to finding cures or treatments for many degenerative diseases in humans,” explains Van Winkle. “I’m very excited about the contributions I may make to these discoveries.”

Van Winkle is in her fourth year of a chemical engineering degree and doing her research as part of the Undergraduate Research Students Program, which provides an excellent opportunity for undergraduates to gain practical research experience with direct guidance from leading University of Calgary researchers.

She plans to continue her research as a graduate student at the Schulich School of Engineering.

Undergraduate students interested in finding out more about doing research at the university can find out more on the undergrad research opportunities website: www.ucalgary.ca/vpr/research/undergradresearch