An avid reader of medical thrillers and Christian fiction, a loving wife and mother, a passionate mentor and researcher—that’s Dr. Leah Marquez-Curtis.
This lady scientist is currently a senior research assistant at the Research and Development Division of the Canadian Blood Services, working on blood stem cell transplantation. No she’s not tweaking embryonic stem cells but adult stem cells, particularly hematopoietic (blood-making) stem cells.
Dr. Curtis’s research has great impact on cancer treatment. Her team makes it possible for blood cells to develop into normal cells by collecting stem cells from the blood of a patient before undergoing chemotherapy. These cells were formerly collected from the bone marrow in an invasive manner. (Chemotherapy surely compromises the blood-making functions of the bone marrow and make them susceptible to infections.) Now, Dr. Curtis’s team manages to collect the cells from the blood and preserve them.
The beauty of the procedure, according to Dr. Curtis, is that “after chemotherapy, these same cells are transfused back to the patient, and by some mechanism, the stem cells go home to the bone marrow, where they begin to develop into normal blood cells, which rescues the normal blood-making functions in the patient.”
Dr. Curtis graduated from the University of the Philippines Los Banos with a degree in chemistry (cum laude) and obtained her doctorate degree in chemistry from the University of Alberta in Canada.