Our Research Team

As principal investigator of the Stem Cell Therapy and Skeletal Regeneration Lab, Dr. van Wijnen has cultivated a motivated, multidisciplinary research team dedicated to improving options for patients with musculoskeletal diseases and conditions. Our team's scientific discoveries about human stem cells have the potential to expand the repertoire of tissue-engineering applications in the orthopedic clinical realm.

Here's a look at some of our research team members.

Amel Dudakovic, Ph.D.

Dr. Dudakovic's studies are focused on advancing pharmacologic strategies to treat musculoskeletal disorders. His current efforts are aimed at using small-molecule inhibitors of epigenetic regulators to stimulate bone accrual and preserve and restore cartilage. Dr. Dudakovic is involved in studies aimed at identifying epigenetic mechanism that regulate skeletal aging. He also has a keen interest in the characterization and use of mesenchymal stem cells and stromal cells in the treatment of musculoskeletal ailments. He received a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota in 2005 and a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Iowa in 2010. He conducted his postdoctoral training at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Dudakovic is now an instructor in orthopedics and an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota.

Roman Thaler, Ph.D.

Dr. Thaler is a research associate at Mayo Clinic who joined the lab in 2014 as a postdoctoral research fellow. His research focuses on the epigenetic regulation of musculoskeletal cell maturation and the development of new epigenetic cell reprogramming strategies for skeletal regeneration purposes. Dr. Thaler graduated from the University of Vienna in Austria in 2011. He is the author of numerous scientific publications. He has received several grants and scientific awards at the national and international levels, including the 2019 ASBMR John Haddad Young Investigator Award and the 2016 ASBMR Harold M. Frost Young Investigator Award, both from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR).

Farzaneh Khani, D.V.M.

Dr. Khani is a research fellow at Mayo Clinic. She received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree (D.V.M.) from the University of Tehran Veterinary Medicine School in Iran in 2013. She led a pet clinic in Tehran for two years and then completed requirements to permit continuation of her studies at the University of Massachusetts. From there, she was recruited by Dr. van Wijnen, who offered her a position in the lab in 2015. Dr. Khani's research work revealed that food-derived compounds can modulate the molecular memory of bone to stimulate bone formation, providing direct support for new drug development to treat osteoporosis. Her studies have focused on pharmacological strategies to improve bone formation in animal models and differentiation of stem cells into bone cells using cell culture models. Most recently, her studies have focused on finding epigenetic function and effects of the mammalian hairless gene on bone development.

Christopher R. Paradise

Paradise is a predoctoral student conducting his thesis work in Dr. van Wijnen's laboratory. The overall goal of Paradise's work is to use stem cell engineering techniques and pharmacological interventions to improve outcomes in regenerative medicine. His work focuses on studying the role of epigenetic regulators during osteogenic and chondrogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stromal cells. In collaboration with the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Mayo Clinic, he is also involved in efforts to enhance the osseointegration potential of metallic orthopedic implants. Paradise received a bachelor of arts in biology from St. Olaf College in Minnesota in 2014. He is a third-year student in the molecular pharmacology and experimental therapeutics Ph.D. track and a member of the Regenerative Sciences Training Program.

Catalina Galeano Garces

Galeano Garces is a special project associate in the lab. Her research focuses on the use of tissue engineering strategies (such as low oxygen, 3D environment and scaffolds) to improve chondrogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells for future treatments of focal cartilage lesions, osteoarthritis and growth plate disorders. Galeano Garces graduated from EIA University in Colombia with a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering in 2013. She received a master's degree in tissue engineering and biomechanics from Arts et Metiers ParisTech in France in 2014.

Joselin (Sofia) S. Jerez Ortega, Ph.D.

Dr. Jerez Ortega is a postdoctoral research fellow studying the involvement of microRNA in the development of bone. She is experienced in the research field of extracellular vesicles and bone tumors. She graduated from the University of Santiago in Chile with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and received her Ph.D. in biotechnology from Andrés Bello National University in Santiago in 2017.

Leila Bagheri, Ph.D.

Dr. Bagheri is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery who has worked in our lab since February 2018. She is an expert molecular biologist and began her research on defining the molecular mechanisms that promote new bone formation, such as Notch signaling pathway. In Dr. van Wijnens's lab, she focuses on skeletal development and epigenetic mechanisms that control the memory and function of skeletal cells. Dr. Bagheri graduated with a degree in chemistry from Shiraz University in Iran and earned her master of sciences degree in analytical chemistry from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences in Iran. She received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of Ferrara in Italy in 2016.

Eva Kubrova, M.D.

Dr. Kubrova is a research fellow in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Her projects focus on modalities affecting clinical delivery of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells in treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. Dr. Kubrova received her medical degree from Charles University in Prague in 2017.

Miriam (Lizeth) L. Galvan Tenorio

Galvan Tenorio is a research trainee working in the lab. Her research focuses on the repair and regeneration of musculoskeletal and mineralized tissues of craniofacial and oral structures. She attended dental school at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico and graduated with a doctor of dental surgery degree in 2016.