News - March 8, 2012

Stem cell research in Boston

Who? Max Friesen, MSc student of Molecular Life Sciences
What? Research on lipodystrophy using human stem cells
Where? Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

‘After five months on a research internship at the stem cell institute at Harvard I feel completely at home. The group here focuses on fat, and more specifically on lipodystrophy, a condition in which the fat metabolism is disturbed and fat is inadequately formed and stored. I modify stem cells so that they have the same mutations as lipodystrophy cells. I then differentiate them into fat cells, and this gives us a verifiable system for continuing research on the disease.
One thing's for sure: Boston residents take fat very seriously, and on your way to work every morning you are constantly in danger of being knocked over by joggers - there are masses of them. As for me, I spend long days in the lab because it takes a lot of attention to keep stem cells alive. And then it's extra busy right now because in a couple of weeks I get to present my results at a conference of the National Institute of Health. That is quite a big deal, so I am working hard to have some good results to show.
I am living in a student house with more different nationalities than I've ever seen, even in Wageningen. The number of students in Boston is ridiculous: the proportion of students to non-students is about the same as in Wageningen but on the scale of this city, that means an awful lot of students.'
Boston is relatively close to New York, so I go city hopping there for a couple of days quite regularly. Like at New Year. That was a huge spectacle; it really was a unique place to bring in the new year in style! It struck me right away that the beer prices in the student bars here are about three times as high as in Wageningen. And when it comes to taste in music, they could take a leaf out of our book too.'