Public Release: 

California funds UCI basic research on stem cells

Marian Waterman, Aileen Anderson awarded $2.6 million in CIRM grants

University of California - Irvine

Irvine, Calif., April 29, 2010 -- Two UC Irvine scientists will receive grants totaling more than $2.6 million to study the underlying biology of stem cells aimed at treating spinal cord injury, cancer and other disorders.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine grants to Marian Waterman and Aileen Anderson are intended to support research on the fundamental properties and mechanisms of human stem cells.

CIRM's governing board this approved 16 basic biology grants worth $28 million to 10 institutions statewide. Studies supported by the awards will form the foundation for eventual stem cell applications in clinical settings. The ultimate goal is to tap the full potential of human stem cells for therapeutic use and biomedical innovation.

The grants bring total CIRM funding for UCI to $62.5 million, ranking it sixth among recipient institutions.

Waterman, along with Peter Donovan, Robert Sierra and Leslie Lock of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, will use a $1.3 million CIRM grant to address a significant and fundamental question in stem cell biology. The professor and vice chair of microbiology & molecular genetics will examine how a protein called TCF-3 regulates key activities in human embryonic stem cells.

The research will further understanding of how such cells survive and remain pluripotent - or able to develop in numerous ways - and could be used to create similarly robust induced pluripotent stem cells from patients.

With another $1.3 million from CIRM, Anderson, Brian Cummings and Hal Nguyen of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center will study the properties of induced pluripotent stem cells to see how they can treat central nervous system injury and disease. Unlike other types of stem cells, these genetically reprogrammed cells show promise in becoming patient-specific tissue cells - a breakthrough for future stem cell therapies.

The CIRM grant review team hailed the proposal as innovative and having the potential for broad impact in the field. The Anderson team will partner with Japanese researchers Masaya Nakamura, Yohei Okada and Hideyuki Okano on the project.

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UCI will host a dedication ceremony May 14 for Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute, which will house the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center; dozens of lab-based and clinical researchers; a stem cell techniques course; a master's program in biotechnology, with an emphasis on stem cell research; and programs and activities for patients and public education. The $80-million, 100,000-square-foot facility is the first CIRM-funded institute in Southern California.

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