Spring 2013

[Alumni News]

Cody Kime

On the Frontier of Stem Cell Research

Cody Kime

Cody Kime (’10, Cellular Molecular Biology) is working on the leading edge of regenerative medicine. The Eureka native is a research associate in the San Francisco lab of Nobel Prize laureate Shinya Yamanaka, who won the 2012 award in medicine for developing a technique that turns mature skin cells into cells that can develop into any cell in the human body. The revolutionary method—which involves reprogramming a cell’s DNA—has completely revolutionized the fields of cell biology and stem cell research.

“It’s really an amazing feat,” says Kime, who began interning for Yamanaka through the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s Bridges Program in 2011. “What Shinya was able to do is show the world that a cell is not permanent. If you push it hard enough, you can override its programming to create the cell you want.”

Kime’s own interest in stem cell biology began while he was a student at Humboldt State. He was one of the first participants in a stem cell training program, established in 2009 through a $1.6 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

“I knew right away that it was going to be an intense program that would teach me the nitty-gritty of stem cell biology,” recalls Kime, who got hands-on experience turning stem cells into pancreatic cells through an internship with faculty members Amy Sprowles and Jacob Varkey. Kime also conducted research for professors Mark Wilson and Patricia Siering on genetically unidentified organisms in Lassen Volcanic National Park. “One of the things I love about the biology department at HSU is that the professors are not only great scientists, but are also open to guiding undergrads.”

Kime’s workweek at the Gladstone Institutes often consists of 12-hour days and weekends in the lab. “When I first started I definitely wondered if I could hold my own, but what I found is that I was completely prepared thanks to the mentoring I got at HSU.”

One of the most significant impacts of the research is that scientists can now bypass the ethical controversy surrounding the harvesting of embryonic stem cells. Yamanaka’s method also allows researchers to develop patient-specific medical treatments. “What we can potentially do is take your skin, turn it into stem cells, turn those into kidney cells, then see what a drug would do to your own kidney cells. The implications for medical screening are remarkable,” Kime says.

Cell reprogramming also has implications for regenerative medicine. One of Kime’s goals is to eventually engineer cells to create custom tissues and organs. “It’s no small feat, but if you read enough in the field you realize it’s not entirely implausible.”

Kime attributes his career success to the belief that anything is possible with hard work and a little of luck. It’s a philosophy he hopes to pass on to his daughters, Liberty and Scarlet, and to future generations of HSU students. “There’s opportunity in life,” he says. “You just have to find it and push.”