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March 11, 2024

CiRA Research Internship Program Student Interview vol. 8
-Building Upon Experiences with iPS Cells Toward a Career in Translational Medicine-

Kana Ogawa
(Queen’s University)

By Kelvin Hui, Ph.D.
CiRA Research Promoting Office

For Kana Ogawa, who is starting her master's studies in Translational Medicine at Queen’s University, Canada, working with iPS cells is nothing new. Having worked as an intern during the past two summers at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, on cystic fibrosis (CF) and using iPS cells to generate human colonic organoids to study CF-associated colorectal cancer tumorigenesis, she traveled a bit farther last summer to Kyoto to join the CiRA Research Internship Program.

"I wanted to work in Dr. (Yoshinori) Yoshida’s lab because of its strong reputation and expertise, as well as my interest in learning more about cardiomyocytes," she said of her decision to participate in CiRA’s program last year.

During the 4 weeks she was at CiRA, from July to August in 2023, Ogawa worked in the laboratory of Yoshida (Associate Professor, Department of Cell Growth and Differentiation) to generate cardiac organoids. "By combining different cardiac lineage cells derived from iPS cells, cardiac organoids have the ability to simulate some key characteristics of the heart," she explained.

Aside from iPS cell culture, she performed gene and protein expression analysis, such as quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction(RT-PCR), immunofluorescence staining, and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), on the cardiomyocytes she differentiated from iPS cells. "I was also provided the unique opportunity to observe the transplantation of the organoids I created into mice," she added.

"I had a wonderful experience at CiRA," she said. "It was a privilege to be able to learn at a world-leading institute focused on iPS cell research and to receive guidance from renowned researchers."

When asked how the internship program may have impacted her research or career outlook, "This internship experience changed my outlook because it fueled my passion for pursuing research as a career. Witnessing the dedication and enthusiasm of my peers has instilled in me a profound respect for the work being done to advance iPS cell research," she explained.

With her eyes set on translating basic science discoveries to the clinical setting and, certainly off to a fantastic start from her internship experiences, Ogawa will now begin her graduate studies to focus on the regulatory mechanisms of medulloblastoma tumorigenesis, one of the most common malignant brain tumors in children.

Outside of working with iPS cells and cardiomyocytes, Ogawa had a fantastic time exploring different areas in Kyoto, a city rich in history and culture. "Kyoto is a beautiful city, and I loved every minute of my time here," she exclaimed. Biking around the city, she visited various famous landmarks—the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the Philosopher's Path, the Kamo River, and the Ninenzaka street near the Kiyomizu-dera Temple—to name a few. Taking full advantage of the timing of her internship at CiRA, Ogawa also got to experience the Gion Festival. "It was a very cool experience to be a part of that. I do not think I have ever seen so many people in the streets!" she said.

From left: Gion Festival
and the Kamo River

From left: the Kiyomizu-dera Temple
and the Ninenzaka street

(Photos by Kana Ogawa)

From left: Gion Festival, the Kamo River, the Kiyomizu-dera Temple,
and the Ninenzaka street
(Photos by Kana Ogawa)

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