UW-La Crosse science students research aging, potential cure for Alzheimer’s

Students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse are conducting special research that could affect the future of health care. The Prairie Springs Science Center was completed prior to the 2018 fall semester.

Faculty are using the new space to give students opportunities to find their passion and possibly change the world.

“Our old building was falling apart,” said Daniel Walgenbach, a UW-La Crosse senior. “Now we have the space where we can actually accomplish high-quality research.”

UWL associate professor Jennifer Klein said this is not a classroom.

“This is actually devoted to independent research for students,” Klein said.

Klein works with many different students from every grade and many different degree fields.

“I will have pre-PA (physician assistant), pre-PT (physical therapy), and pre-med students who rotate through here,” Klein said.

Those students included Alex Steil, who used to be a pre-med major.

“I had no interest in genetics or research or cell and molecular bio that was all a very foreign and distant thing to me,” Steil said.

Now he is helping Klein with her own funded research and would like to start his own biotech business down the road.

“It’s funny how things work out,” Steil said.

He said they are working on finding a solution to a problem affects all of us in time.

“Our overarching goal is to kind of better understand how our muscles age and use that to kind of manipulate them to work better and not get old,” Steil said.

Klein said she has several students working to find answers.

“I have some students that are doing gene editing in muscles to try to reverse aging,” Klein said. “I have some students that are then characterizing those gene edits. I have other students that are expanding that work into neurons and they are interested in curing Alzheimer’s.”

They are applying and preparing skills for a future career.

“They don’t leave my lab unless they have a new place to land,” Klein said.

The students are working to make real breakthroughs in medical research.

“We could reverse some aspects of cellular aging,” Klein said.

It’s a new roof but the goal under it remains the same: creating opportunities within this proud campus.

“Getting a peek behind the curtain to see all of this that goes on behind the scenes was extremely helpful for me and it meant a lot,” Steil said.

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.