Dr. Molinero Brings Immunological Magic to Woodson

On Valentine’s Day people often discuss matters of the heart, but Dr. Luciana Moliero, a researcher from the section of Rheumatology at the University of Chicago was all about the Immune System!

Before Molinero’s talk, STEM Facilitator, Tolu Rosanwo, asked, “Girls we learned about blood cells once. There are white ones and red ones. What do the red ones do?”

“They are for oxygen!” Brianna said.

“Right, and Dr. Molinero works with the white ones.” Smiles of understanding permeated through the room.

First, Dr. Molinero asked the girls what they wanted to be when they grew up. Brianna wants to be a veterinarian, Desiree still wants to be a cardiologist, and Ashanta wants to be a pediatrician. On the first day of class last semester, none of the girls besides Desiree wanted to do science, and just in a few months, things have certainly changed.

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Luciana introduces herself to the girls.

Luciana has done her research in repressing the body’s immune response during organ/graft transplantation and will soon study how it can be used to combat cancer. She usually teaches graduate students, but had no trouble breaking down the complexities of the immune system for Sisters4Science students.

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Luciana teaches the students about macrophage cells, which engulf pathogenic cells and substances.

Dr. Molinero lectured briefly on the differences between innate immunity (macrophage cells acting on their own) and adaptive immunity (ie, vaccinations). She also discussed antibodies, Y-shaped structures that recognize foreign subtances and alert other immune cells to act.

Y is for ANTIBODY. Each Antibody has two arms.

Y is for ANTIBODY! Each Antibody has two arms. Left to right: Dr. Molinero, Brianna (7th), Ashanta (6th), and Desiree (8th)

Molinero’s activity for the girl was about how antibodies work . Each girl carried either a red or yellow balloon. In this activity, Ashanta was a flu virus and Desiree (who had carried some yellow balloons before) was the antibody binding to the flu virus with the yellow marker. Brianna, a macrophage, bound to her sister.

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a flu, antibody and macrophage complex!

In the end, the girls learned so much about immuology and Ashanta wrote in her journal, “I used to think that the flu was destroyed with medicine, but now I know it is because white cell which eat it.”

Ashanta's journal entry

Ashanta’s journal entry

Dr. Molinero really enjoyed her time with the girls, and whenever they find themselves at the University of Chicago, they have open invitation to visit her lab!

Thanks, Dr. Molinero!

Tolu Rosanwo

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