SURF

Tiffany Hangse

Development of a Human Thymic Epithelial Co-Culture to Enhance T Cell Maturation

Robust conventional T cell development in vitro remains challenging without the thymic microenvironment. Within this organ are two subsets of highly specialized thymic epithelial cells: cTECs and mTECs. Both arise from a common bipotent progenitor whose differentiation is regulated by the forkhead box transcription factor, FOXN1. FOXN1 also mediates TEC-thymocyte crosstalk and is believed to have postnatal roles in maintaining thymus integrity. Therefore, my research project will explore in vitro TEC differentiation and, subsequently, T cell maturation. I plan to develop a human TEC line overexpressing FOXN1 and then co-culture it with iPS-derived T cell progenitors. I hope that this system may improve in vitro T cell development for adoptive cell therapies. Additionally, the co-culture may have applications in three-dimensional artificial thymic organoids (ATOs) for further enhancing T cell development and understanding thymic organogenesis.

Message to Sponsor

This summer fellowship has been a priceless experience for me as both a student and aspiring researcher. Receiving funds to not only only conceptualize but also actually experiment has taught me so much about science beyond the classroom. SURF has definitely inspired me to continue research in translational medicine; therefore, I have decided to apply for an MD/PhD. This decision is not only from inspiration but also from failure: throughout the summer, I realized many frustrations, and often disappointment throughout the project. But more importantly, I learned how to turn that negative energy into perseverance, how to keep my eyes on the bigger picture. It seems a small lesson but I am confident that it is an important one to have for my future endeavors. And so much gratitude to SURF and the Rose Hills Foundation for allowing me to experience and learn such a priceless lesson.
  • Major: MCB, Human Rights
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Independent