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Leukemia research brings biology students and local medical lab together

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Biology students at Health Network Lab
3/14/2012 —

Students in the biology lab at Penn State Lehigh Valley have long used various examples of animal cells, such as those from chicken and mice, to conduct experiments. After making a request to their professor, four current biology students are working on a line of human leukemia cancer cells for the first time. The students, who have dubbed themselves "Team K562," a reference to the name of the cells they are researching, are studying the ability of different drugs to halt the proliferation of the disease in white blood cells. 

However, in order to perform proper blood analysis for their project, the students need to become proficient in hematology. To that end, biology faculty and staff reached out to Health Network Laboratories (HNL), a multi-regional medical laboratory headquartered locally in Allentown, for assistance. Since then, Team K562 has travelled to two of HNL's sites, working side-by-side with lab professionals to learn the skills necessary to make their research project successful. 

"We are so lucky to have the opportunity to work with the state-of-the-art technology and consummate professionals of Health Network Laboratories," said Jacqueline McLaughlin, associate professor of biology at Penn State Lehigh Valley. "Taking students out of the typical classroom situation and letting them learn in a real-world setting puts content into context for them and has an enriching effect on their undergraduate experience."

HNL is part of the larger Lehigh Valley Health Network, an affiliation that has enhanced the collaboration for Team K562 by giving them the chance to hear the most up-to-date information about leukemia, especially the specific type of leukemia they are working on, chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), from local oncologist, Dr. Suresh Nair.

Team K562 includes students Patrick Hullihen of Nazareth, Pa.; Digisha Patel; Jessica Raad of Orefield, Pa.; and Anthony Toczek. 

For more information, contact University Relations at 610-285-5067 or email aag18@psu.edu.

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