BASIC RESEARCH TEAM
BASIC RESEARCH TEAM
Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa — known to his patients as Dr. Q — is the William J. and Charles H. Mayo Professor and Chair of Neurologic Surgery at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Jacksonville, Florida. His research interest is in discovering new methods of delivering effective treatments for brain tumors in diverse populations and predicting prognoses for patients with brain tumors.
Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa received his undergraduate from the University of California, Berkeley and earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, with honors. He did his neurosurgery residency at the University of California, San Francisco, where he also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental and stem cell biology. His career began at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he served as professor of neurosurgery and oncology, neurology, and cellular and molecular medicine and as director of the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory.
Rachel Sarabia Estrada, D.V.M., Ph.D., assists in directing the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Research Laboratory, where she oversees and conducts preclinical studies that are leading to new treatments and methods of delivery for primary and metastatic tumors of the spine and brain. One of her main goals is to lead an integrated research team that focuses on translational and preclinical research to facilitate bench-to-bedside contributions.
Dr. Sarabia Estrada’s research focuses on developing experimental models of metastatic and uncommon tumors of the spine and brain. She is interested in targeting the tumor sites using cell therapy in combination with chemotherapy and focal radiation and studying how tumors affect the motor and sensorial behavior in disease models.
Her research interests include the development of patient-derived xenograft models for the study of metastasis to the spine and brain, the identification of potential therapeutic targets for the prevention and treatment of spine and brain metastasis, and the development of animal models of nerve injury and regeneration using mesenchymal stem cells.
Paula Valentina (Paula) Schiapparelli, Ph.D.
Dr. Schiapparelli’s research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which glioblastoma cells migrate and invade the human brain. Her main project is to describe the mechanisms by which NKCC1 modulates the actin cytoskeleton to regulate cell shape, spreading and migration in glioblastoma.
Dr. Schiapparelli received her Bachelor of Science in biology and biochemistry and her doctorate in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. Her doctoral research focused on the role of Sonic Hedgehog signaling alterations in pediatric tumors such as neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma.
She continued her training as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, under the mentorship of Dr. Quinones- Hinojosa, and joined Mayo Clinic in 2016.
Virginea de Araujo Farias, Ph.D.
Virgínea graduated in Biology at the State University of Paraíba on 2004 at her home town in Brazil. On September of 2006 moved to Spain to do her Master’s and PhD on Immunology at the University of Granada on the Molecular Oncology research. Her dissertation was on the purification and characterization of the human umbilical cord stroma. Before joining Mayo Clinic, she worked at the Center for Genomics and Oncologic Research (Genyo), in Spain as a post-doctoral fellow, and also as a post-doctoral researcher at the Biomedical Research Center at the University of Granada. Dr. Farias own several patents and have presented extensively at national and international meetings.
She has experience on purifying and characterizing MSC populations from adult tissues and also culturing and differentiating them on conventional and 3D scaffolds. During her postdoctoral training she focused on the anticancer potential of umbilical cord MSCs in combination with radiotherapy in vitro and in vivo. She also studied the exosomal protein content of irradiated uc-MSCs trying to deepen on the molecular mechanism underlying the anti-tumoral effect of radiation-activated uc-MSCs. Currently she participates on a project to explore the combination of uc-MSCs and radiotherapy to treat rectal cancer patients.
Rawan M. Alkharboosh
Rawan Alkharboosh’s research involves isolating human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) derived from human fat (adipose) tissue directly from patients in the operating room and modifying the hMSCs with nanoparticles to target and combat brain cancer. She is also interested in exploring the use of ultrasound frequency using MRI to noninvasively permeabilize the blood-brain barrier for focal enhanced delivery of mesenchymal stem cells engineered with the lab’s patented nanoparticles or a virus carrying cancer-killing cargo.
Rawan is currently a transfer doctoral student from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who graduated with honors in public health. She received her master’s in tumor biology from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she graduated at the top of her class.
Beatriz Fernandez Gil Ph.D
Beatriz Fernandez Gil’s research focuses on evaluating the effects of melatonin on glioblastoma cells and the implication of melatonin in the mitochondrial metabolism as a synergetic drug to improve glioblastoma treatments.
Beatriz is a biologist holding a master’s degree in genetics and evolution. She is finishing her doctorate in biomedicine at the Biomedical Research Centre at the University of Granada in Spain under the direction of Germaine Escames, Ph.D. Her thesis is focused on the synergistic effects of high melatonin concentrations with radiotherapy and chemotherapy in head and neck cancer.
As part of her doctoral program, Beatriz joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa’s team in March 2017 as a three-month visiting graduate student. Since January 2018, she has continued with this work as a special project associate with the goal of eventually translating her findings into clinical approaches.
She is also a passionate student of forensic science and evolution.
Carla A. Vazquez Ramos
Special Project Associate
Carla Vazquez Ramos’ work is focused on local and systemic therapy for glioblastoma using verteporfin-loaded microparticles and nanoparticles, and on using melatonin as an enhancer for temozolomide in glioblastoma.
She also acts as patient liaison with theDepartment of Neurosurgery and contributes in the strategy for Latin America Demand Generation in theInternational Business Development Department at Mayo Clinic. Additionally as a key member of Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa’s nonprofit organization, Mission: BRAIN, she coordinates altruistic outreach trips where surgeries are performed at no cost for those in dire need and no resources in developing communities. Carla joined the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Research Lab after graduating from Dickinson College in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and pre-med. She joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa’s lab at Johns Hopkins University and continued to work with the team when it moved to Mayo Clinic.
During her leisure time, she enjoys running and swimming.
Special Project Associate
Cesar A. Garcia is a recent graduate of Yale University who received his B.S. in Molecular, Developmental, and Cell Biology. In the past, he has worked on projects dealing with the construction of vascular grafts and the development of nanoparticle drug delivery systems targeting GBM tumors under the mentorship of Dr. Anjelica Gonzalez and Dr. Jiangbing Zhou. He will continue to pursue research as a Special Project Associate II here at the Mayo Clinic, working with Dr. Quiñones and his team focusing on developing treatments for GBM. Outside of the laboratory, Cesar enjoys breakdancing and organizing Hip Hop based events.
Paola Suarez-Meade, M.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Suarez-Meade earned her medical degree from Anahuac University in Mexico City. She spent her two last years of medical training at Medica Sur Hospital, a Mayo Clinic Care Network member hospital.
During her previous research experiences, Paola was involved in projects focused on the immune response to spinal cord injury, the description of the pathophysiology and treatment of glioblastoma, as well as the development of in-vivo animal models of breast, lung, and melanoma metastases to the Central Nervous System. For her scientific merits, she received the Trainee Professional Development Award by the Society for Neuroscience in 2018.
Her current research focuses on preclinical studies that are leading to a better understanding of the mechanisms of glioblastoma proliferation, migration, and response to treatment. She first joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa’s team in 2016 and has contributed to both basic and clinical science peer-reviewed papers.
Clinical Research & Laboratory Administrative Assistant
Danielle Devine is the administrative assistant for research in the Mayo Clinic Department of Neurosurgery. She is responsible for handling all administrative aspects of Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa’s Lab: Brain Tumor Stem Cells Research Lab, Dr. Kaisorn Chaichana’s Lab: Metastatic Brain Cancer Laboratory and Hugo Guerrero-Cazares, PhD., Lab: Neurogenesis and Brain tumors lab. Danielle has been with Mayo Clinic for six years in various roles as well as ten additional years in other healthcare customer service industries. Her vast knowledge of Mayo and its policies and procedures will be an invaluable resource going forward. Most recently, she earned an Associate’s Degree in Nursing which she plans to advance so she can grow with the department to help change the world.
Mieu Brooks joined Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa’s team in August 2019 as a lab manager and research technician. Her responsibilities as lab manager include lab upkeep, logistics, team management, harvest of intraoperative tissue samples and establishment of novel brain cancer cell lines. As a technician, she is involved in research characterizing primary brain tumor cells derived from glioblastoma patients and studying how these cell lines can be used to create preclinical animal models. She is also studying how mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be used as treatment vehicles to combat brain cancer.
Mieu received her Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with a focus in microbiology and minor in chemistry in 2010. She received much of her training during her time at UT Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Florida under the direction of Hongtao Yu, Ph.D., and Benoit I. Giasson, Ph.D., respectively, learning how to handle, maintain and conduct investigations on mouse models for various neurodegenerative diseases. In the last three years, she has furthered her training at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus under the direction of Rosa Rademakers, Ph.D.,where she contributed to the study of Tmem106b as apotential protective variant against frontotemporal lobar degeneration in progranulin mutation carriers.Apart from science, Mieu enjoys rock climbing, running, and cooking.
Alexandra R. Bechtle
Graduate Research Education Program (GREP)
Alexandra Bechtle’s research is focused on modifying human adipose-derived cells for glioblastoma treatment. She is specifically interested in understanding the therapeutic potential of nonvirally engineered adipose cellular components from the stromal vascular fraction (SVF) and exploring how SVF treatment affects the self-renewing capacity of the brain tumor initiating cell population in glioblastoma. She is also involved in a research project investigating the role of ion transporters in glioblastoma cell invasion and proliferation.
Alexandra, a recent graduate of the University of Florida, received her Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering with a focus on materials engineering. Her previous research involved developing polymeric biomaterials for medical applications.
NEUROSURGERY CLINICAL AND TRANSLATIONAL TEAM
Tito G. Vivas-Buitrago, M.D.
Dr. Vivas-Buitrago’s project with the lab’s basic neurosurgery research team focuses on neurogenesis in the subventricular zone and the role it plays in brain cancer throughout its development and progression. He also works on emerging technology translation to the surgical and academic fields.
As part of the clinical neurosurgery team, he is helping elucidate the behavior of remnant glioblastoma cells after surgical resection in the recurrence of brain lesions and assisting in the development of the neurosurgical textbook “Comprehensive Multimedia Video Atlas of Skull Base Surgery and Tumors.”
Dr. Vivas-Buitrago first joined Dr. Quinones’ team for six months in 2014 as a medical student finishing his last subinternship rotation. He did part of his subinternship at the Naval Force Hospital in Cartagena, Colombia, and the Comuneros Hospital in Bucaramanga, Columbia. He received his medical degree from the University of Santander in Bucaramanga in 2014. He is funded by the Universidad de Santander, Colombia, and the Neurotrauma Center I.P.S., Bucaramanga, Colombia.
Karim ReFaey, M.B., B.Ch.
As part of the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Lab’s basic neurosurgery research team, Dr. ReFaey focuses on understanding the formation of mature neuronal networks from neural stem cells by studying the topography effects on neuronal differentiation.
Concurrently, he contributes to the clinical neurosurgery team through development of several chapters and neurosurgical videos for the seventh edition of Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa’s “Schmidek and Sweet: Operative Neurosurgical Techniques.” He is also involved in developing novel ways to monitor the electrical activity of the brain during brain surgeries, which may lead to multiple patents. Additionally, Dr. ReFaey plays a significant role in improving international health care through his contributions, along with Mayo’s international team, to strengthening the relationship between the Middle East and Mayo Clinic through collaboration.
Ricardo A. Domingo, M.D.
Dr. Domingo obtained his medical degree from Iberoamerican University in 2018 at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. During his medical career, he worked as a research trainee at the Dominican Gamma Knife Center and the Iberoamerican University Research Department.
Dr. Domingo first joined Dr. Quinones’ team in early 2019 as a visiting physician and is currently a member of the clinical neurosurgery research team. His research focuses on the identification of prognostic factors as well as treatment efficacy in brain tumors, especially atypical meningiomas and glioblastoma. As a member of the clinical research team, Dr. Domingo has contributed to several book chapters and peer-reviewed papers.
Gaetano De Biase
Gaetano De Biase graduated Summa Cum Laude, with honorable mention as top of the class, from Medical School Catholic University Sacro Cuore in Rome, Italy. He is currently a research trainee in the Neurological Surgery department with Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. He is currently working on several outcome-focused clinical translational projects in neuro-oncology and spine degeneration, as well as doing lab research on microfluidity and glioblastoma cell migration in the Brain Tumor Stem Cell laboratory.
He spent the summer of 2017 and 2018 as a research trainee at Mayo Clinic (Jacksonville) shadowing Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa in the OR and doing research in his Brain Tumor Stem Cell laboratory. He has also worked on multiple projects on comparative effectiveness and outcomes in the realm of low-grade gliomas and spine surgery that led to several peer-reviewed publications. During his time at Mayo he also had the opportunity to actively participate in cadaveric dissections.
He is also a concert pianist, receiving his diploma from the “St. Cecilia” Conservatory in Rome. In May 2019 he did a clinical elective rotation in Neurosurgery at Thomas Jefferson University, and in June 2019 he did a clinical clerkship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He aspires to complete his neurosurgical residency in the U.S.
Diogo Garcia, M.D.
Diogo Garcia earned his medical degree from Faculdade de Medicina at the University of Porto, Portugal.
As a medical student in Portugal, Diogo was involved in basic research with a particular focus on cancer and immunology, having written a dissertation on the role of the immunologic and genetic context of colorectal adenoma, which was selected as one of the five best abstracts submitted to the European Congress of Pathology, 2019 in the digestive pathology category.
Whilst still a medical student, Diogo joined Dr. Quinones’ team during his surgery clerkship for the period of one month. After finishing his medical training at the University of Porto, Portugal in July 2019, Diogo returned to the team where he will now research brain tumors and spine pathology with the aspiration of making a contribution to the advancement of medical knowledge in the neurosurgery field an of, one day, becoming a Neurosurgeon.
Andres first joined Dr. Quiñones-Hinjosa’s team in 2016. A few years later he returned as a research trainee for a period of six months where he helped the clinical team with their research projects, mainly focusing on how the outcomes of different surgical techniques impact the quality of life of neurosurgical patients. He then went back to Mexico to complete his medical degree, which he earned in January 2020. He is now re-joining the team to complete a post-doctoral fellowship for a period of three years before applying to residency.
During his time working with the team, he has volunteered in Dr. Quiñones’ non-profit organization Mission:BRAIN during their outreach trips to Mexico City.
Elizabeth has over 20 years of experience providing administrative support. She has worked in otolaryngology at the University of Miami School of Medicine; risk management for the government of Orange County in Orlando, Florida; as well as Mayo Clinic’s Department of Orthopedics from 2004-2010 as medical secretary for Mary I. Connor, M.D., chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery.
More recently she has worked at St. Vincent’s Spine & Brain Institute as a surgical coordinator, initially maintaining all aspects of scheduling for Eric W. Nottmeier, M.D. including clinical operations and surgery schedules. She also assisted with coordinating patient schedules for all preoperative and postoperative needs as well as insurance verification and prior authorizations. Later, she became responsible for coordinating all information pertaining to surgeries for three physicians. There she developed and created workflows that were standardized as best practice.