Mayo Clinic is preparing to advance a new era of health care by educating the regenerative medicine workforce of the future. Unique educational opportunities provide training for diverse students, ranging from early career scientists and health care providers to veteran practitioners.
Regenerative medicine is an emerging area of practice focused on repairing, replacing or restoring diseased cells, tissues or organs. Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine is a driving force behind new curricula that teach physicians and scientists how to integrate the newest regenerative technologies into clinical care. The "Mayo Clinic Regenerative Medicine and Surgery" course, the Regenerative Sciences Training Program and Regenerative Sciences doctoral track in Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences are examples of ways education is advancing regenerative medicine.
'Mayo Clinic Regenerative Medicine and Surgery' course
The allure of Florida's sun-splashed beaches was a key factor that attracted Jeremy Burgess to Mayo Clinic in Florida, but it was Mayo Clinic's world-class research and educational opportunities that kept him there. The weeklong advanced "Regenerative Medicine and Surgery" course, which was held in June, provided Burgess further perspectives on ways his research could enhance patient care. Burgess, a neuroscience Ph.D. student and participant in the Regenerative Sciences Training Program within Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, aspires to lead a research lab focused on neurodegenerative diseases.
"A common feature of most neurodegenerative diseases is that symptoms often will not present until significant damage has already occurred," says Burgess. "That makes regenerative approaches that can not only stop disease progression, but actually restore function, really critical. This course strengthens my belief in the importance of advancing regenerative medicine."
Mayo Clinic is one of the first academic medical centers to offer patient-centered curricula and a weeklong course in regenerative medicine and surgery. Burgess found stimulating lectures and diverse backgrounds of students contributed to robust daily discussions that broadened his view on applications for regenerative medicine.
"Perhaps my biggest takeaway is to be ambitious and dream big about new ways regenerative medicine can rebuild health," says Burgess. "We need therapies that not only prevent further deterioration but also look to reverse existing pathology. With recent advances in areas like genetic editing and stem cell technologies, gaining expertise in regenerative medicine helps ensure I have the tools to deliver meaningful research that can help patients as I move through the next stages of my career."
The "Mayo Clinic Regenerative Medicine and Surgery" course is offered through Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine. Saranya Wyles, M.D., Ph.D., directs the course.
Regenerative Sciences Training Program
Captivated by the field of biomedical engineering and research, Emma Goddery, Ph.D., first came to Mayo Clinic as a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow (SURF), with dreams of advancing breakthroughs in neuroscience, immunology and oncology in tow. The unique opportunity to study in an immunology lab as an undergraduate cemented her decision to pursue her research goals at Mayo Clinic.
"I had the chance to study immune cells known as eosinophils. High levels of these disease-fighting white blood cells can indicate a parasitic infection or allergic diseases," says Dr. Goddery. "My SURF experience was phenomenal, and I applied to the Mayo Clinic Ph.D. program as a result."
Shortly after, she began her doctoral program in immunology in Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and was subsequently accepted into the first class of the Mayo Clinic Regenerative Sciences Training Program. A highlight for her was helping shape the coursework in this emerging area of science sort — of like influencing history in the making.
"It was an amazing experience working together with the first cohort of students, giving input to help grow and develop curriculum and programming for what is becoming a successful and formative Ph.D. track in the graduate school," she said. "The faculty and administration really allowed students' voices to be heard regarding what we wanted to learn and how we might learn it."
In May, Dr. Goddery successfully defended her doctoral thesis and became the third Regenerative Sciences Training Program student to graduate from Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences with a concentration in regenerative medicine.
"My Ph.D. thesis was focused on determining various checkpoints that immune cells utilize to infiltrate the brain tissue during viral infections or conditions of neurodegeneration," says Dr. Goddery. "While immune cells are often necessary to get rid of infections, they also cause a lot of damage to the cells in the brain. Modulation of immune infiltration is one step we could potentially utilize to prevent damage and degeneration as a result of brain infection."
Dr. Goddery has gone on to accept a scientist position in biotechnology, where she is using her expertise in immunology and regenerative medicine while continually building on her scientific knowledge. Her ultimate goal is to lead teams of scientists geared toward the development and advancement of new biotherapies.
Regenerative education is evolving
The Regenerative Sciences Training program has evolved into a full-fledged Regenerative Sciences doctoral track within Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The first cohort began this summer. Isobel Scarisbrick, Ph.D., is the program director.
Mayo Clinic's educational opportunities in regenerative medicine and sciences are maturing along with this new field of practice to bring the latest technologies to patients with unmet needs.
This article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine blog.