Madison-Plains High School students attend the annual genetics conference


Carrie Arbaugh

The genetics conference group gathers outside Madison-Plains High School after having gone to the Genetics Conference at Thomas Worthington High School. Shown in the picture is their teacher Ms. Hildebrant, Ivy Short, Madison Crissinger, Nate Beary, Anna Morelock, Chase Manns, Andrew Gyer, Mckinley Gainey, Dalton Dodds, Sarah Thomas & Janelle Marks (left to right).

Janelle Marks

On November 1, 2019, Madison-Plains High School students attended the annual Genetics Conference at Thomas Worthington High School in Worthington, Ohio.


They learned about induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), CRISPR technology, gene replacement therapy, genome editing and much more.


Sam Rhine, the conference speaker, talked about how scientists had to get stem cells from human embryos previously, but there’s now another way.


Dr. Yamanaka, a scientist in Japan, discovered scientists could take any somatic cell and reverse the signals to return it to a blank stem cell called an iPSC. These cells can become any cell and replace a person’s diseased cells without rejection because it’s their cells. 


Scientists now have the ability to conduct Cell Replacement Therapy that helps people who are missing a specific cell, create organoids that diseases can be modeled on and actually replace human tissues and organs in the laboratory.


There was a problem with some of the organs being too complicated to create a scaffold for (the structure under the organ), but scientists discovered a solution. 


Everyone has identical organ scaffolds, so scientists decellularized (melted the other person’s cells off the scaffold) a dead person’s organ, then recellularized it by adding the person’s iPSCs to the scaffold and growing them an organ without rejection because it’s their organ and cells.


Rhine then talked about CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology which allows for scientists to do surgery on DNA and modify human genomes.


With CRISPR and different versions of “Cas” proteins, scientists can unwind DNA, cut out what is causing the mutation and replace it with correct sequences to cure a disease or stop a lethal bacterial infection from spreading. 


Scientists can also edit human embryos, allowing them to heal a genetic mutation before the infant is born. However, this raises ethical concerns with what’s gene therapy to heal someone, and what’s enhancement. 


We are approaching an era where science fiction is real and the possibilities are nearly endless as research continues.