Countdown to Commencement: Gio Suh builds muscles without exercising

From left, Gio Suh and Lauren Ekman (Photo by Cristy Lytal)
From left, Gio Suh and Lauren Ekman (Photo by Cristy Lytal)

“I’ve always wanted to be in a textbook and impact the world,” said Gio Suh, who is graduating in December 2017 from the master of science program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

As an undergraduate and graduate student at USC, Suh made strides towards achieving his goal. During the summer after his sophomore year as a biomedical engineering student, Suh began studying cardiac and skeletal muscle when Megan McCain first started her lab at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

In addition to helping McCain set up her lab, Suh successfully grew early-stage muscle cells that matured into muscle fibers, and maintained their survival for three weeks on gelatin. Prior attempts had maintained these muscle fibers for only one to two weeks.

“This platform will hopefully enable novel studies into skeletal muscle development and disease mechanisms, which can be used for several therapeutic and clinical applications,” said Suh.

He published this work in Scientific Reports in 2016, and has recently written a chapter in the textbook titled Methods in Molecular Biology: Skeletal Muscle Development, pending review in 2017. At age 23, he has already begun impacting the scientific community.

Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Suh always had a curiosity for the sciences.

“I like learning how everything works,” he said. “Science just explains everything.”

At age 10, he moved to Irvine, California, with his mother and sister and began learning English.

To remind him of his family, Suh wears his grandfather’s watch every day. Suh’s grandfather embodied perseverance and dedication by serving as a general in the Korean military. Now, at the age of 92, he has severe dementia and Parkinson’s disease. To study similar debilitating neurological diseases, Suh is currently collaborating with Justin Ichida’s lab at USC to study ALS as well as Carrie Miceli’s lab at UCLA to study Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

After graduation, Suh aspires to work in the biotechnology industry while keeping an open mind to other scientific career paths.

“I’m not sure what lies ahead for me, but I’m always looking to the future,” he said. “Stay tuned.”

The author of this article, Lauren Ekman, also graduated from the master’s program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Mentioned in this article: Megan McCain, PhD, Justin Ichida, PhD