Stem Cell Scientist Spotlight with Lauren Jasko

Lauren Jasko works as a Research Assistant at HSCI’s iPS Core facility. She hails from Hudson, Ohio, and has a B.A. in Neuroscience from Hiram College.  She filled us in on her role at the Core, her passion for oil painting, and her plans for medical school. 

Lauren Jasko, iPSC Core Research Assistant

Matrix:  So what do you do Lauren?

Lauren:  I work in genome editing services, and I create for scientists studying a certain disease genetically-modified induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines using CRISPR-Cas9 and TALEN technologies. Both methods create a double strand break in the DNA, which activates a repair pathway in the cell. The cell will undergo either non-homologous end joining or homology-directed repair, which will hopefully introduce the desired mutation or repair the mutation in the cell line. My job is a nice mix of both academia and industry — we  design experiments and test hypotheses, but we are also producing stem cell lines for scientists within HSCI and around the world. 

Matrix:  Have you read any interesting research papers related to your work lately?

Lauren: I read a great review article in Nature explaining the CRISPR-Cas9 technology and how it can be used to create GEMMs—genetically engineered mouse models—that have specific mutations in tumor suppressor genes, oncogenes, and other genes that may be used to study cancer. It was about a paper called Applications of the CRISPR –CAS9 system in cancer biology, authored by Franciso J. Sanchez-Rivera and Tyler Jacks, in the journal Progress. Researchers would like to use these GEMMs to study how tumors develop, test anticancer agents, and discover a molecular mechanism for drug resistance. Generating GEMMs is usually a long and complicated process, but the CRISPR-Cas9 technology has made it much easier to manipulate embryonic stem cells and generate the specific mutation of interest in the mouse model.

Matrix:  That’s fascinating stuff! What’s it like working in the basement of the Bauer Building? I know you guys are short on windows down there in the iPS Core.

Lauren:  Yes, we joke that we’re vampires.  We always sit outside together at lunch every day, even if it’s only 40 degrees!

Matrix:  And what do you like to do in your free time?  (Besides sunbathing that is.)

Lauren: Well, I minored in art, and I love oil painting.  I don’t have a favorite artist in particular, but I really like the work of the Italian renaissance artists Michelangelo, Donatello, Caravaggio, and Giotto.  I went to Florence, Italy for a 3-week study abroad art course in college, and it was an amazing experience to see the impact of these artists, and how the preservation of artwork is so valuable in Italy. And I especially enjoy painting landscapes myself – it’s so relaxing to paint outside!

Matrix:  Perhaps you could paint outside in the Bauer-Fairchild Courtyard during lunch! Do you have an art studio set up at home?

Lauren: Well, I don’t really have a lot of time to work on my painting now, because I’m applying to medical school.  I’m specifically interested in getting my degree in osteopathic medicine, which is modern medicine with a holistic philosophy that looks at the behavioral, social, and emotional aspects of treating patients.  

Matrix:  From modeling diseases in stem cells to treating them in humans, we wish you the best of luck, Lauren.

See also: Spotlight