Year 5

The focus of USC’s training program in stem cell biology and medicine continues to be to train the next generation of stem cell scientists, with the overall goal of alleviating human suffering caused by deficiencies in stem cell function.

Our CIRM training grant funds predoctoral students pursuing a Ph.D. degree, postdoctoral fellows seeking training beyond their Ph.D, M.D. or other health related doctoral degrees (e.g. DDS, DPT, DrPH), and clinical fellows (M.D.s), in the final stages of their training, seeking to augment their clinical training with research experience.

Common to each of these groups is practical training in which fellows conduct research in the laboratories of USC faculty members who work in diverse areas of stem cell biology.

An equally important part of the program is a series of seminars designed to expose students to cutting edge stem cell science and the most accomplished scientists in the field. We also expect the students themselves to present their own work to their peers, and we have provided several venues for them to do so, including a weekly Stem Cell and Developmental Biology seminar series, a yearly Stem Cell Retreat, and a Stem Cell Day at USC in which students and fellows present their latest work.

Our training program also includes didactic classes in stem cell biology, developmental biology and stem cell ethics. These classes provide the most advanced information about stem cell science, serving to immerse students in the latest scientific literature and provide them with a deep awareness of the bioethical issues that stem cell scientists face.

Finally, as of this year, we are offering our students and fellows a series of career and professional development seminars focusing on issues such as the practical steps in how to prepare a resume, what to expect on a job interview, and how to approach the choice between an academic position and a position in industry.

Some highlights and accomplishments of our program during the reporting period include the following.

Dr. Hossein Nazari, a CIRM postdoctoral clinical, a first author of a JAMA Ophthalmology paper in 2014, was appointed a Clinical Instructor in the department of Ophthalology at USC.

Another milestone in stem cell research at USC is the inauguration of a new graduate program, Development, Stem Cells, and Regenerative Medicine (DSR). This program, one of only a few in the country, will offer Ph.D. degrees in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. The first class of students matriculated into the program during summer of 2014.
A number of our fellows have contributed to important advances in stem cell research. For example, Dr. Maksim Plikus, a former CIRM postdoctoral fellow and current Assistant Professor and member of the UC Irvine Stem Cell Research Center in the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology at UC Irvine, has published several outstanding papers in the area of skin development and regeneration.

Our fellows (current and past) continue to present their research work at local, state, national and international events. An abbreviated select list is shown below:

• World Ophthalmology Congress (WOC2014), Tokyo, Japan (Hossein Nazar Khanamirl, M.D.)
• 3rd Annual Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Retreat, San Francisco (Michaela Patterson, Ph.D.)
• Gordon Research Conference Craniofacial Morphogenesis & Tissue Regeneration, Lucca, Italy, Camilla Teng
• Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington, DC, November 2014, Christine Solinsky
• Haploidentical Transplantation Symposium and The American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting San Francisco December 2014 Noah Merin, MD
• Annual Weinstein Cardiovascular Conference Boston, May 2015 (upcoming) Hua Shen, Ph.D.
• American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy, 2015 (upcoming) Eduardo Seclen PhD

USC’s Stem Cell Training Program continues to train the next generation of stem cell biologists in the theory and techniques needed to conduct rigorous, cutting edge stem cell science that promises to make real differences in people’s lives.