UCSB will get more than $500,000 for tools and technologies to develop new treatments for diseases that can be helped by stem cell research, thanks to a grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Lead scientist Dennis Clegg, who is also a professor and chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, described the project being funded as exciting and truly interdisciplinary. He said that it will involve chemists, cell biologists, and engineers.
The money will be used to address a critical need for new technologies, according to Clegg. It is meant to facilitate the cost-effective, large scale culturing of human embryonic stem cells for clinical research. “The proposed experiments, if successful, will address an important unmet need in bringing stem cell therapies to clinical use and provide the foundation for a wide range of additional applications,” Clegg said.
The interdisciplinary research group includes scientists Craig Hawker, director of UCSB’s Materials Research Lab, and Erkki Ruoslahti of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research. Lincoln Johnson, director of the Center of the Study of Macular Degeneration, is serving as a consultant.
James Thomson, a world-renowned biologist, is also a consultant to the project. Thomson was recently deemed one of Time magazine’s 2008 Top 100 people for his involvement in reverting adult stem cells to their embryonic state. The new cells, called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, are expected to live for a very long time while retaining the ability to form all of the different tissues found in a human body. This allowed researchers to negate the issue of whether human embryos would be destroyed.
Thomson and Clegg co-direct the UCSB Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering.
The grants from the institute are designed to accelerate the development of critical therapies for patients with chronic disease or injury. A total of 23 grants will be given to 18 organizations, totaling $19 million in funding.