Graduate student wins award at local stem cell symposium

Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
November 21, 2023

Natasha Brinkley, a bioengineering master’s student at UC Riverside, won second place for best podium presentation by audience vote at the 2023 Inland Empire Stem Cell Consortium Symposium that took place Nov. 3 in Colton.

Natasha Brinkley and Prue Talbot
Natasha Brinkley (left) is seen here with Prue Talbot, director of the UCR Stem Cell Center. (Inland Empire Stem Cell Consortium Symposium.)

Brinkley, who works with Jin Nam, a professor of bioengineering, in the Tissue Regenerative Engineering and Mechanotransduction, or TREAT, lab on campus, gave a presentation titled “Development of a Cell Culture System to Enhance Axonal Outgrowth in Engineered Functional Nerve Tissue In Vitro.”

“This project details our prototype system for differentiating human neural stem cells into engineered nerve tissue that mimics the functionality and morphology of native spinal cord tissue,” Brinkley said.

Other graduate students in the TREAT lab who presented at the symposium are Angel Ko, Lu Jin, and Youyi Tai. Tai won third place for best poster presentation. All three students were invited to present at the symposium’s poster session; Brinkley was selected to give a podium speech. UCR students Shabnam Etemadi and Thomas Spater won the first and second places, respectively, for best poster presentation. 

“Inspired by Natasha's recent breakthroughs in guiding neural stem cell behaviors through a blend of biochemical and biophysical factors, our next step involves refining this tissue engineering approach to create synthetic tissues resembling the human spinal cord,” Nam said. “This engineered tissue holds promise for testing therapeutic methods targeting various diseases and traumatic injuries, marking a significant stride in medical research.”

The 2023 Inland Empire Stem Cell Consortium Symposium was hosted by the California University of Science and Medicine. It featured presentations from UCR, Loma Linda University, California State University at San Bernardino, City of Hope, Western University, and UC Irvine.

The Inland Empire Stem Cell Consortium is comprised of researchers conducting stem cell research at UCR, Loma Linda University, Western University, and California State University at San Bernardino. It provides a forum for raising awareness of stem cell research in the Inland Empire.