Our training program is an interdisciplinary Specialization in Regenerative Medicine, offered within the MS degrees in Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science. Faculty from all three departments are involved in all aspects of the program. The MS specialization is a 2-year program, which includes one academic-year of coursework at our institution plus a course-capstone project, a week-long Pluripotent Cell Techniques Course at the Scripps Research Institute, and a full-time and off-site nine-month internship at a non-profit research institution or for-profit biotech company.
During this reporting period, our eighth cohort of 10 students completed their coursework and will complete their open-ended project by the middle of August, working with faculty from Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science. This cohort has already matched to their internship locations, and after their Stem Cell Techniques Course at Scripps, will start on Sep 1. Finally, our ninth cohort of students was admitted to the program and will begin coursework in the fall.
The graduates of this program have strengthened the future of stem cell research in California by contributing to all aspects of the field, both directly and in-directly. Graduates of our program are directly strengthening stem cell research and regenerative medicine by performing fundamental investigations in both academic laboratories (as research associates and doctoral students) and for-profit companies, developing and manufacturing regenerative medicine products at biotech companies, and participating in clinical-trial organization. Additionally, our graduates who are employed at for-profit companies in the medical device sector are indirectly benefiting the field by providing their regenerative medicine perspective to traditional device product design and development.
Detailed Description of Training Program
Our core coursework (i.e. courses taken by students from all three majors) is laboratory intensive, and includes Tissue Engineering, Cell Transplantation, Biomedical Imaging, and Molecular Techniques. In these courses, student learn to grow cells and tissues, evaluate native and engineered tissue structure, measure tissue function, perform microsurgery to induce rodent disease models and test cell-based therapies, label cellular structures and proteins, perform all manner of advanced optical microscopy, and learn fundamental molecular techniques, such as PCR, nucleic acid isolation, and cloning. In addition to these laboratory-intensive courses, the core coursework also includes a quarterly Regenerative Medicine Seminar and a seminar-style Principles of Stem Cell Biology course. Through this coursework, students learn both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills that are important for stem cell research/regenerative medicine and gain important preparation for their internship projects.
Before embarking on their internship, students finish their training with a capstone project at our institution. The capstone project challenges students to apply the knowledge and skills gained through the coursework to an open-ended project. This allows the students to complete and receive feedback on a small-scale project with a brief report before embarking on a rigorous 9-month project and extensive report. Examples of projects this cohort include determining the effects of muscle progenitor cells on white blood cells function in mice with diet-induced obesity, evaluating migration of mesenchymal stem cells into biomaterials, and studying whole-body regeneration in a marine invertebrate, among others.
Though the students will not being their internships until Sep 1, they have already matched to the following internship sites: Capricor Therapeutics, Cytori Therapeutics, Genea Biocells, Organovo, ViaCyte, Stanford University/VAPA, UCSD. Project opportunities will span discovery-based research in academic labs to device engineering at for-profit companies, and encompass most of the major physiological systems- cardiovascular, endocrine, musculo-skeletal, hepatic, renal, skin and immune. Over the 9-month internship, students will work full-time, live away from their home institution, and will not enroll in any formal coursework, so that they can focus all of their efforts on the internship project.