Visitors to UCSB’s Biological Sciences II building were recently shown around the newly renovated laboratory for stem cell research. Visitors observed workers preparing petri dishes for growing cells, and looked down microscopes to inspect the effects of increased acidity on cells. All the while, researchers guided groups around the lab, making laudable efforts to explain the workings of the various pieces of equipment.
The renovation of the laboratory was facilitated by a $2.2 million grant from CIRM (California Institute for Regenerative Medicine). Approximately 1,400 square feet of space has been generated, and the laboratory has been organized into several sections. There are four workstations, a microscopy unit, and a support laboratory for the maintenance of master cell stocks and the derivation of new stem cell lines.
These new facilities will greatly benefit UCSB’s stem cell training program, which was established in 2005 with the aim of supporting graduate and postgraduate fellows in their various research projects.
The research focuses on three main areas, the theories underpinning stem cell science: why stem cells behave as they do; methods of growing stem cells efficiently and safely; and the use of stem cells to regenerate damaged tissue.
Researcher and Indy writer Teisha Rowland spoke of the importance of the treatment being developed to combat macular retinal degeneration. This disease is the most common cause of blindness in older adults in the United States. Researchers hope to treat it by replacing ocular cells damaged by the disease with new ones derived from stem cells. According to Rowland, it’s expected to take several years for the treatment to develop from the initial testing phase to its appearance on pharmacy shelves.