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Taking research personally

CBS undergraduate Kacey Guenther applies a personal lens to her research under the microscope

Kacey Guenther finds connections between her personal life and research interests. After starting her college career in Florida, she transferred to the U of M to study a particular disease in the Stem Cell Institute that hits close to home.

“I originally came here to research with Dr. Jakub Tolar because he researches a disease that I have, epidermolysis bullosa,” says Guenther. “I really am interested in the genetic role in all kinds of diseases, which was sparked by having a genetic disease myself.”

With these interests, Guenther dove head-first into the world of genetics and disease research in her undergraduate career. Building off her experience with Dr. Tolar, she currently studies in Dr. Peter Bitterman’s lab researching pulmonary fibrosis. For the last two years she also spent time splicing genes involved in cancer in the lab of Dr. Anindya Bagchi.

Guenther helped investigate the relationship between MYC, a cancer causing gene, and PVT1, a chromosomal neighbor to MYC. They found that the MYC protein relies on the PVT1 for stabilization, which develops more frequent and aggressive cancers, a breakthrough discovery that landed their study in the pages of the journal Nature.

“It was a long process to get a paper published, but it was really exciting when we got the news that it was finally accepted,” says Guenther. “I didn’t do a lot of the writing myself, but I got to see the different steps of the process. And after the paper was accepted, we ended up getting a big grant, so it was this really cool snowball effect.”

Going through the process of researching and getting published, Guenther has big aspirations to use her newfound skills and knowledge to pursue a dual MD/PhD degree after graduating this spring.

“MD/PhD programs are the bridge between the lab and the clinic,” says Guenther. “So you can take what you learn in the lab and apply it to people. With my connection to genetic diseases, I hope to eventually study genetic diseases in children.”                                                                                                     

– Lance Janssen

Student Scoop

with Kacey Guenther

Favorite place to study
Local coffee shops

Favorite fall activity
Jumping in a pile of leaves

Favorite study music

In her free time she
Does yoga