Our training program is an interdisciplinary Specialization in Stem Cell Research, 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, a week-long Stem Cell Techniques Course at the Scripps Research Institute, a full-time and off-site nine-month research internship at a non-profit institution or for-profit company, and a one-quarter capstone project at our institution. During this reporting period, our fifth cohort of 10 students completed their research internships (at Capricor Therapeutics Inc, Cytori Therapeutics Inc, Organovo Inc, ViaCyte Inc, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Stanford University/VA Medical Center, and the University of California San Diego), completed their capstone projects (by both continuing aspects of their internship research and working with faculty from Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science at our institution), and will finish their training program after presenting their work at the CIRM Trainee Meeting in mid-July. Also during this reporting period, our sixth cohort of students completed the program coursework, completed the Stem Cell Techniques Course, and matched to their research internships, which will be performed at the sites listed above and at new internship partner- Cellerant Therapeutics Inc. Finally, our seventh cohort of students has been 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 for-profit companies, and participating in clinical-trial organization at large medical centers. 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, and Biomedical Imaging. 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, and perform all manner of advanced optical microscopy. In addition to these laboratory-intensive courses, the core coursework also includes a quarterly Stem Cell Research 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.
After completing their coursework, our student begin their internship with one of our partners, listed above. Our internship partners provide a wide variety of project opportunities for our students, from fundamental biological studies in academic labs to device engineering at for-profit companies, and encompass all of the major physiological systems- cardiovascular, neural, endocrine, musculo-skeletal, digestive, and respiratory. Over the 9-month internship, students work full-time, live away from their home institution, and do not enroll in any formal coursework, so that they can focus their efforts on the internship research.
After completing their internship, students finish their training program with a capstone project at our institution. The capstone project challenges students to demonstrate their mastery of the internship project by independently transferring knowledge and skills gained during their internship to a novel project at our institution (i.e. outside their internship laboratory). Examples of previous projects include the derivation of equine (horse) induced pluripotent cells, the creation of “diseased” tissue engineered blood vessels to study stents, and the transplantation of skeletal muscle stem cells to induce enhance arteriogenesis.