Case Western Reserve and Edheads team up to advance science education

The National Center for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM) at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is teaming up with Edheads, a provider of online education tools, to launch web-based education modules about stem cells.

The modules, based on real clinical trials, are geared toward high school students and designed to enhance classroom curriculum. They offer a highly innovative and interactive learning experience to demonstrate the nature of stem cells and their importance in medicine and the development of new therapies.

“This is a great way to engage young people and help cultivate their interest in science while introducing them to stem cells,” said Michael Gilkey, acting director for the National Center for Regenerative Medicine at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. “By enriching scientific knowledge among students, we also increase their awareness and interest in science and medicine as a potential career path.”

Edheads, a Columbus-based non-profit organization, creates unique, educational web experiences that are free to teachers, students and parents, and advance science and math concepts beyond what is introduced in classrooms. Users need only a computer, a recent Internet browser, and a handheld mouse for optimal use.

“We are excited to provide students and teachers, as well as other potential audiences, with an innovative learning tool that inspires a love of science,” said Gail Wheatley, executive director of Edheads. “With cool graphics, great sound and tons of animation, we are able to present complex topics and new scientific research in a manner that is understandable and instills a lifelong love of learning.”

Hilliard Davidson High School students, grades 10-12, and Olmsted Falls High School biology students in grades 9-10, have been testing the activities and will continue to do so as the third of three modules is introduced today.

“The stem cell project for Edheads was not only educational for my anatomy students, but also for myself as well,” said Jill Perkey, anatomy and physiology teacher at Hilliard Davidson High School in Hilliard, Ohio. “Edheads has provided an experience that is fun, educational, free, and accessible to everyone.”

Students, teachers and other potential users throughout the country can access the stem cell activities, which are available online at To experience the activity, click on the names of the modules on the left hand side of the screen.

The gaming feature of the site makes for an active learning environment, rather than a passive, “click through” experience, giving students the opportunity to manipulate portions of the activity in order to proceed and answer questions that help enforce important aspects of the activity. The program’s interactive nature is designed for better information retention, possibly generating greater interest in pursuing a career in the field.

The first activity, “create a line of stem cells,” launched in late 2010, allows students to take a virtual tissue sample from a specific part of the body, such as the bone marrow, and grow it to see which cells are stem cells. Through computerized animation and the use of a virtual microscope, they will learn how to differentiate cells and select the ones they want to culture and grow. At the end of the lesson, students will be asked to publish their findings in the form of a report or journal article to be reviewed by a teacher or parent.

A second stem cell education module, “stem cell transplant,” launched in February, covers potential clinical applications for stem cells and how different stem cell types may be used. For example, one model will show how the stem cells from a bone marrow transplant may be used to treat leukemia. However, because the marrow transplant also poses a risk of causing another disease, students will learn how a new stem cell type is used to treat and cure Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD), a common complication that arises from bone marrow transplants.

The third stem cell lesson, “stem cell heart repair,” which launched yesterday, features how researchers are exploring the potential application of stem cells in the development of new therapies that, if successful, may one day be used to regenerate diseased heart muscle. Two different methods are used to get the patient’s own stem cells to their heart and help them recover from a heart attack. The module will reinforce the importance of observation and record keeping and illustrate that the paths taken in research and medical innovation are often winding, but enlightening.

In addition to the stem cell programs, the Edheads site will make available a glossary of terms, a teacher’s guide, and interviews with stem cell experts.

Each of the three activities demonstrate the innovative research performed at the National Center for Regenerative Medicine by its founding partners, Athersys, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic, The Ohio State University and University Hospitals Case Medical Center.  Each of these partners contributed to the content of these activities in support of high school education.

Next Steps

The NCRM and EdHeads, together, plan to continue outreach to inform educators about the stem cell activities. This fall they’ll distribute a postcard to all public school science teachers and librarians, as well as public libraries. In addition, the activities will be programmed in three kiosks—one will become part of the BioMedTech exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center and the other two will be mobile for deployment at NCRM member hospitals.