ACC Teaching Stem Cell Technology to High School Students

Local high school students are growing stem cells at Austin Community College, thanks to a program that is unique in the state of Texas.

Through a grant from the National Science Foundation, ACC is helping develop a stem cell course for high school students and teachers. Participants get hands-on experience with the equipment and techniques used in this emerging field. The course uses a technology in which mature cells are converted back to stem cells – creating potential for medical breakthroughs including the creation of replacement cells and organs from a patient’s own cells.

“This technology has enormous implications for the future of medicine, and we are excited to be able to introduce the next generation of biotechnology professionals to these techniques,” says Dr. Linnea Fletcher, chair of ACC’s Biotechnology Department.

The students, representing high schools in the Austin and Round Rock school districts, enrolled in the pilot class in March. After learning the basics of cell culture methods over the past several weeks, students are now working with cardiac stem cells from mice.

“Biotechnology is booming in the greater Austin area, and ACC is equipping students to be on the cutting-edge of developments in this field,” says Tom Kowalski, president of the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute. “This course highlights advancements in the area of regenerative medicine and creates greater awareness of biotechnology as students prepare to select college majors.”

Along with City College of San Francisco and Alamance Community College in North Carolina, ACC is among three pilot sites in the nation offering stem cell research curriculum to high school students.

Participating students will receive transferable college credit for Introduction to Biotechnology (BIOL 1414) through ACC. The college offers an associate degree in biotechnology along with certificate and advanced technical certificate programs.

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