Spring Valley, Wisconsin native Paige Arneson is one of three of the first class of students to be selected for fellowship in this specialized Ph.D. program. Submitted photo
Spring Valley, Wisconsin native Paige Arneson is one of three of the first class of students to be selected for fellowship in this specialized Ph.D. program. Submitted photo

Submitted by Jon Holten, Mayo Clinic; compiled by Paul J. Seeling, Gateway News

ROCHESTER, MN — Seeking to spur development of innovative medical breakthroughs, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences has started one of the nation’s first doctoral (Ph.D.) research training programs in regenerative sciences.  Spring Valley, Wisconsin native Paige Arneson is one of three of the first class of students to be selected for fellowship in this specialized Ph.D. program.

The Regenerative Sciences Training Program will prepare the next generation of scientists to accelerate the discovery, translation and application of cutting-edge regenerative diagnostics and therapeutics.

“This program will push forward the medical treatments of tomorrow,” says Karen Hedin, Ph.D., director of the Regenerative Sciences Training Program. “We’re trying to give our students all the tools they’ll need to speed up the translation and application of novel therapies.”

Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine, which is pioneering new approaches to rejuvenation and regeneration to transform medicine and surgery, is funding up to 16 five-year fellowships. These fellowships pay students a stipend plus benefits and cover all tuition costs. In the coming years, the program will pursue funding from additional sources, including the National Institutes of Health, says Dr. Hedin, who also is director of the graduate school’s immunology track and associate director of education for the Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Development of the Regenerative Sciences Training Program has been a priority of Fredric Meyer, M.D., executive dean of education, Mayo Clinic. Leaders in the Center for Regenerative Medicine and the graduate school collaborated on organizing the program. Dr. Meyer is the Juanita Kious Waugh Executive Dean for Education.

“The training program will identify talented students who are committed to careers in discovering, developing and applying regenerative science to advance medical progress,” says Richard Hayden, M.D., an otolaryngologist and director of education for the Center for Regenerative Medicine. “Graduates of the program will be integral to building the multidisciplinary workforce needed to drive the future of health care at Mayo Clinic and around the world.”

Students in the program will specialize in one of seven Ph.D. tracks: 1) Biochemistry and molecular biology. 2) Biomedical engineering. 3) Clinical and translational sciences. 4) Immunology. 5) Molecular pharmacology and experimental therapeutics. 6) Neurobiology of disease. 7) Virology and gene therapy.

In addition, students will receive interdisciplinary training in regenerative sciences research, including regenerative technology in all seven tracks; skills for translating regenerative medical solutions into clinical applications; ethical use of regenerative medical solutions; communication with scientific, medical, business and government professionals; and biobusiness development and federal regulations.

Students will gain experience in multiple labs on projects that involve regenerative sciences. Some courses will be taught in collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

“We have a number of labs and faculty already doing research in regenerative science,” says Dr. Hedin, who heads a Mayo lab studying molecular mechanisms of signal transduction in cancer and immune disorders.

The program will spread knowledge about regenerative sciences throughout Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. Students in all five Mayo schools will soon have the ability to attend the program’s classes in person or via teleconference. Dr. Hedin says the Center for Regenerative Medicine also is working with the college to develop a master’s degree program in regenerative sciences, organize a symposium on regenerative medicine to share discoveries with the world through continuing medical education, and add a regenerative medicine component to the surgical residency programs.          

The Regenerative Sciences Training Program will compete for outstanding doctoral candidates from around the world, Dr. Hedin says.

“There was a lot of competition for these first slots,” Dr. Hedin says. “And we expect more competition in coming years. Students want to know their work will improve the lives of patients.”

As a student in the Ph.D. Program at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the students will discover an exciting environment of academic inquiry and scientific discovery, combined with exceptional intellectual and technological resources designed to help them achieve their highest scientific career goals.

The program will accept three or four students per year and, eventually, will have students on all three graduate school campuses in Arizona, Florida and Rochester. Students in the program will graduate with a doctorate in biomedical sciences with an emphasis in regenerative sciences and their track of choice. The first class of students includes:

• Paige Arneson - Arneson is specializing in biochemistry and molecular biology. Her research focuses on the loss of muscle mass from disease and aging and metabolic regulation of muscle stem cells. A graduate of Spring Valley High School in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, she went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Superior in Superior, Wisconsin.

• Emma Goddery - Goddery is specializing in neuroimmunology. Her research focuses on improving stem cell treatments for neurodegenerative conditions caused or accompanied by abnormal inflammation in the central nervous system.

• Christopher Paradise - Paradise is specializing in molecular biology and experimental therapeutics. His research focuses on regeneration of bone and cartilage tissues for treatment of musculoskeletal diseases and injuries.

“These are the brightest, most committed, most energetic individuals I’ve ever met,” Dr. Hedin says. “They are the leaders of tomorrow. I think they’re going to make a huge impact.”

Paige Arneson plans a career as an academic research scientist, leading a team of investigators focused on understanding and solving clinically relevant problems in regenerative medicine while also teaching and mentoring the development of other young scientists.

Paige was recruited to the Mayo Clinic PhD program in 2016. She is pursuing her PhD thesis research in the laboratory of Jason Doles, Ph.D., in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Arneson began doing biomedical research as an undergraduate student, working both at her undergraduate college and at the Mayo Clinic as a summer undergraduate research fellow. In her work with Dr. Roberto Cattaneo at Mayo Clinic, Paige utilized super resolution microscopy to characterize the organization of viral proteins on the surfaces of cells infected by the measles virus. Her undergraduate research results helped scientists develop a better understanding of how this virus, which causes a type of childhood disease, infects human cells. This knowledge can now be applied to engineering measles viruses for use in regenerative medical therapies.

Paige’s PhD thesis research focuses on understanding how to solve the problem of cachexia (loss of muscle mass in spite of adequate nutrition), which is a prominent and distressing feature of many pathologies including muscular dystrophy and advanced cancer, and is also a disabling feature of normal aging.

In healthy young people, stem cells called “satellite cells” normally regenerate muscle as needed. Unfortunately, in the case of cachexia or aging, the satellite cells fail to perform this function. Preliminary evidence from Arneson’s research indicates that part of the metabolism of satellite cells is disrupted during aging and cachexia. Paige’s PhD thesis work will more precisely define what goes wrong with the satellite cells’ and will also experiment with how to correct these problems so that these stem cells can be utilized to regenerate muscle and restore health and function.

A variety of career options are available for students when they complete their Ph.D. training in biomedical sciences. Some choose to seek employment at Mayo Clinic, but the majority find job opportunities outside of Mayo in a variety of fields. Career paths include independent biomedical research in academia, industry or government, as well as diverse careers supporting science and education.

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to medical research and education, and providing expert, comprehensive care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit mayoclinic.org/about-mayo-clinic or newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org.