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Shrewsbury High School Teacher Completes American Association of Immunologists Research Program at UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence

Date Posted: Monday, November 06, 2023

Shrewsbury High School chemistry teacher Jennifer Cuddy was the recipient of an American Association of Immunologists High School Teachers Program in Immunology Award that provided her an opportunity to spend the summer working in Diabetes Center of Excellence (DCOE) research laboratories at UMass Chan Medical School.  She collaborated on a project that is investigating the effects of human immune cells on stem cell (SC)-derived pancreatic islets.  

Such cells have already been transplanted into two people who are living with type 1 diabetes and have proven to be functional, however both recipients require immunotherapy and the toxic side effects that come with it.

DCOE labs led by David Harlan, MD, Michael Brehm, PhD and Sally Kent, PhD are collaborating to identify ways to protect SC-islets from autoimmune attack.  They are conducting studies utilizing our novel “humanized” mouse models to observe interactions between human cells and tissue in vivo.

Ms. Cuddy kicked off National Diabetes Month in November by attending the National Association of Biology Teachers Professional Development Conference in Baltimore, where she presented some of what she learned over the summer.  In July, she attended an American Association of Immunologists conference in Los Angeles with teachers from throughout the country.  

“We anticipate that Jen will continue to be involved in lab work and manuscript preparation,” said Dr. Kent, Associate Professor and The George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Term Chair in Diabetes at UMass Chan who served as her mentor for the project.  

The research program provided Ms. Cuddy with new skills that can be incorporated into her high school classroom.  “The lab experience will aid her in thinking how to ask big questions and how to go about tackling them,” added Dr. Kent.  “I anticipate that she will bring a greater understanding of experimental design and data interpretation to her teaching.”

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