Marina Ramirez-Alvarado, Ph.D.

I have been interested in proteins ever since I learned about the diversity of their activities in my undergraduate years in Mexico City. Then, when I was studying for my Ph.D. in Germany, Stanley Prusiner won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine related to his work on prion proteins changing shape and causing disease. I was fascinated, and it motivated me to focus my research on light chain amyloidosis — to this day, I continue to conduct research on the proteins related to this horrible disease.

I was attracted to Mayo Clinic because clinicians here are internationally known for treating the condition. In fact, the Mayo Amyloid Interest Group formed around the time I was recruited to Mayo. During our monthly meetings, we share ideas about the clinical, biochemical and biological aspects of light chain amyloidosis. I have had the honor and privilege to meet and get to know some of our amyloidosis patients over the years. My interactions with amyloidosis patients have helped refocus my research over the years and allowed my laboratory to see the human side of our efforts. It has inspired us to work hard to accomplish the idea of bench to bedside research in our laboratory.

Another wonderful thing about doing amyloidosis research at Mayo is the well-organized tissue bank for hematologic malignancies (initiated by Dr. Robert Kyle). This tissue bank includes specimens from amyloidosis patients who have sought treatment here over the last 40 years. This is a research resource that does not exist in any other institution in the world.

I love teaching in the classroom and working with my team members in the laboratory; mentoring provides me with as much opportunity to learn as it does to teach. It is extremely rewarding to witness how these young adults begin to connect the dots and figure things out all by themselves. When my students and technicians start to come up with their own ideas, then I know they are growing as scientists. As I usually tell my team members, my goal is for all of them to know more than I do, to think critically, and to be able to answer questions about the things we are studying together, and I want these young adults to feel free to accomplish all these things in their own way.

Dec. 07, 2011