There’s a new lab on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus — and it’s not the traditional basic science lab. After a few months of construction and renovation, the Mayo Clinic Neuroregeneration Lab opened on the second floor of the Birdsall Research Building, significantly expanding the reach of regenerative medicine on campus. The nearly 500 square feet of space houses three independent laboratories for biospecimen processing and stem cell-related research activities.
The lab currently banks and utilizes more than 400 fibroblast cell lines, each made from a skin biopsy of patients suffering from various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. These patients carry genetic variants or mutations, and the research is aimed at modeling their specific diseases. The lab also contains samples of healthy cells and is building a bank of blood cells.
Researchers can reprogram the fibroblasts or blood cells to become what they call induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which can then be coaxed into becoming any cell type in the body. For example, cells taken from a skin biopsy can be converted to iPSCs, which can be guided to become brain cells and studied in the lab. Researchers are now working on ways to use blood samples, a less invasive technique than skin biopsies, to help them find causes and cures for disease.
A unique feature of the Mayo Clinic Neuroregeneration Lab is its lighting. The near UV wavelength overhead lighting specially made for the lab disinfects the entire space, creating a sterile environment.
The new lab fosters an environment of collaboration across specialties, meaning any researcher who wants to conduct stem cell research can utilize the space. Each room within the lab contains all the necessary equipment a researcher would need to do experiments. Expert advice and technical support are also provided.
“This lab enables us to collect and bank cells, and then distribute the cells and cell lines to Mayo Clinic investigators to support their research,” says Guojun Bu, Ph.D., Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine and director of the Mayo Clinic Neuroregeneration Lab. “The eventual goal is to either slow down the degeneration of neurons or implement some sort of regenerative therapy or replacement therapy.”
Down the line, researchers hope to use the findings of their research to alter the course of devastating brain diseases, correcting gene mutations and defective cellular functions. By recreating a patient’s disease in the lab, they may be able to test and target specific drugs before these are given to the patient. They also hope the lab’s capabilities will allow them to accelerate discoveries into new treatments, as they continue to transform the practice of medicine.
Construction of the new lab was funded by the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine. Research conducted in the lab is supported through the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine, as well as federal and foundation grants.