Student researcher works with artificial tissue


Discovering ways to artificially engineer the human body to produce new tissue or destroy lethal cancerous cells is a subject of cutting-edge biomedical research at laboratories across the globe. Hopkins hosts many of these laboratories, which are redefining the field of biomedical engineering. But this research is not limited to the some 30,000 graduate and post-graduate students who call Hopkins home.

Sophomore and biomedical engineering major Fernando Vicente, one of the many undergraduates involved in research, splits his time between the Schneck and Elisseff laboratories at Hopkins. The Schneck lab focuses on developing a novel artificial lymph node in an effort to increase the efficiency of the immune system so it is less susceptible to diseases such as cancer. Vicente explained that the lymph node serves as a micro-environment in which researchers can introduce biomolecules in order to activate cancer-targeting T cells. The end result is a cascade of effects, including T cell proliferation, which strengthens the body’s immune system.

After entering the biomedical engineering program, Vicente has become more interested in tissue regeneration, a phenomenon that was merely a subject of science fiction not many years ago. In addition to working with Dr. Schneck, Vicente also works under the aegis of Dr. Ellisseff in the department of biomedical engineering, studying tissue generation by using extracted extracellular matrix.

Vicente hopes to incorporate the experience he has gained in the laboratory in his future career. Whether he chooses to enter the world of medicine or cutting-edge biomedical research after Hopkins, Vicente knows he wants to “be behind the scenes, taking the world to new levels.”

Vicente’s ambition to work in this field began during an AP Biology class in high school. Vicente explained that his class was learning about telomerase, the enzyme famously known to all biologists as responsible for protecting the end regions of chromosomes, thereby protecting our vital genetic material against degradation. After some independent investigation, Vicente found that Dr. Carol Greider, who discovered telomerase in 1984, is a professor at Hopkins.

With this in mind, Vicente joined the biomedical engineering program.

Vicente said that he approaches almost all aspects of his life with the same rigor and consistency that he exhibits in the lab. In addition to working in two interdisciplinary research labs, Vicente works as an advocate for Health Leads and as a volunteer with Thread, in which he provides support and gives guidance to local inner-city youth.

When asked about his recipe for success, Vicente is quick to highlight the importance of developing time management skills.

“[Hopkins] is truly a special place; treasure being here while you can,” Vincente said.

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