Year 7 NCE

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 that extends into summer, 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 seventh cohort of 10 students completed their course-capstone projects (working with faculty from Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science at our institution), completed their internships (at Capricor Therapeutics Inc, Fate Therapeutics Inc, Organovo Inc, ViaCyte Inc, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the University of California San Diego), and will finish their training program after presenting their work at the CIRM Trainee Meeting in late-July. The graduates of this program have strengthened the future of cell-based therapies 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, students 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 acide 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.

Course Capstone:
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 at our institution. 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 assessing cell migration into tissue engineering scaffolds, determining the effects of muscle progenitor cells on the growth of natural bypass arteries, and evaluating the migration of neural progenitor cells.

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- blood and cardiovascular, neural, endocrine, renal, and immune. Over the 9-month internship, students worked full-time, lived away from their home institution, and did not enroll in any formal coursework, so that they focused all of their efforts on the internship project.