Professor Guides Undergrad Research

Who would have thought that a capsule only as big as the tip of your finger could one day produce cells and research that could save your life?
Craig Cady and his research students discovered this phenomenon at Bradley through their research with induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
“Erin Koch [junior biology major] and Kate Lipovsky [‘13] worked together all summer to generate human beating heart cells,” Cady said. “One day I was at home, and Kate called all teary eyed. The first of the cells were beating.”
For six months, the group had been researching, monitoring and enduring experimental failures. On May 22, after 26 days of consistently culturing and monitoring a group of iPS cells, Cady and his students celebrated a huge victory.
Cady credits his students with being motivated and following their passions.
“IPS cells have to be taken care of every day,” Cady said. “The hours are long, the materials are expensive – we even had one point where we had cells cultured for 20 days already and it failed.”
He said their dedication to the project and to their future careers is inspiring.
“These kids are here at 10 o’clock on a Friday night tending to cultured cells,” he said. “They’re full-time students, some have part-time jobs, but they’re spending their free time living in my laboratory because they love this.”
Cady said Koch repeated the experiment with the IPS cells and was able to shorten the time from 26 days to a mere nine days.
“This is going to make a huge difference in the clinical world,” he said. “Stem cell regenerative material is the new medicine.”
Cady said his plan was never to go into stem cell research. Ten years ago, he had a fellowship in neurology and was studying Alzheimer’s Disease, working to determine why an elderly brain is more prone to getting the disease than a younger brain.
“Then, one of my colleagues hands me something to read about stem cell research, and I told him I didn’t want to do stem cell research,” Cady said. “When I read it, I realized how it has the potential to heal almost anything.”
Cady said the fact that his lab could create beating heart cells and pacemaker cells shows that it can make any cell in the body.
“The important thing is to not get down or depressed,” he said. “You’ve got to move forward and keep your eyes on the goal. My students were really able to do that.”
Cady said that the huge benefit at a university like Bradley is that you can get directly involved as an undergraduate that will forever impact scientific research.
“Our next target is Parkinson’s disease,” Cady said. “The work is incredibly expensive, but it’s very exciting to think that you could effectively treat or cure such a disease.”