Sarah Runge, PhD Student

Hometown: Sulphur Springs, TX/Plymouth, MA

Previous degrees/school where the degree was earned: BS, Biology, Franklin Pierce University

Why did you choose WPI for your PhD?
There were quite a few factors that helped me decide, but two of the major ones were the location of WPI and the professors’ research interests. I wanted to stay close enough to my family, who live in Plymouth, MA, so that I could go back on weekends for visits. I was also very drawn to the research being done by Drs. David Adams and Tanja Dominko. WPI has a very diverse faculty, making the research being done at Gateway Park interesting to a wide range of students.

What area(s) of research are you currently exploring?
I work in the lab of Dr. Tanja Dominko, and we study tissue regeneration and wound healing through the use of regeneration-competent cells. Our lab was one of the first to transform human dermal fibroblasts into induced regeneration-competent (iRC) cells through altered culture conditions. We have shown that these cells can be used to help induce growth of near-native tissue architecture at a skeletal wound site. Without the use of transgenes, and consequently without the ability to be tumorigenic, iRC cells have the potential for replacing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) in personalized medicine.

In which professors laboratory are you currently working?
Professor Dominko

Briefly describe the research:
My research involves understanding the role that arginine methylation plays during the acquisition of regeneration competence. Our lab has demonstrated upregulation of the arginine methyltransferase PRMT8 in iRC cells. For the first time, we will show that induction of a regenerative phenotype is accompanied by PRMT8 expression; previously, PRMT8 was only known to be expressed in brain tissue. Through exploring the functional relevance of the expression of this gene, we will get a better understanding of the molecular changes that occur during the acquisition of regeneration competence that may help lay the groundwork for intentional manipulation of cellular plasticity and differentiation for therapeutic purposes.

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