Stem Cell Research Facilities Expanding at UCSD

Karl Willert will direct the Human Stem Cell Core Facility at UC San Diego.

San Diego, CA, June 5, 2007 -- The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Human Stem Cell Core Facility, which supports multiple research projects using stem cells to advance the understanding and ultimately the treatment of disease and injury, will receive a $2.8 million Shared Research Laboratory Grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).  The funding will be used to upgrade the current core facility, and to support the establishment of a new satellite facility to expand the resources available to investigators.

“The support provided by this grant will allow UCSD to enhance our collaborative stem cell program so that we may accelerate our goals of improving health and conquering disease through regenerative medicine,” said Marye Anne Fox, UCSD Chancellor.

The core facility, directed by Karl Willert, is integral to UC San Diego’s broad-based efforts in stem cell research, also called “regenerative medicine” due to the unique property of stem cells to regenerate into specific cell types that potentially could be used to repair and replace tissue damaged by disease or injury.  The facility provides a specially equipped, centralized location for the maintenance of a number of established human embryonic stem cell lines, the training of scientists in basic techniques to work with these cells, and for dedicated laboratory space, technology and support for research utilizing stem cells.

stem cells

In this image of human embryonic stem cells, microtubules of the cytoskeleton appear as red lines. The  blue ovals are cell nuclei and the green markers indicate the presence of a protein expressed only in human embryonic stem cells. 
Higher-resolution version.
Credit: Samantha Zeitlin, 2006 CIRM fellow

A portion of the funding will be used to purchase new equipment and upgrade the existing core facility laboratory, which is utilized by a growing number of investigators from a variety of disciplines.   Research projects underway at UCSD include the potential use of stem cells in the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease, and spinal cord repair, and other diseases that today are considered incurable.

The grant will also support the creation of a new 2,775 square-foot satellite core facility to be located in UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering. The laboratory will build on the research and expertise of faculty from Bioengineering and other departments in the Jacobs School, and from the Division of Physical Sciences.  Faculty researchers in these departments include experts in new technologies such as nanotechnology, biomaterials, instrumentation, bioreactors and tissue engineering, all key to the stem cell research effort.

“This new core laboratory will apply an array of the most promising technologies in the world for controlling stem cell differentiation, delivering stem-cell based therapies, scaling up cell production, and engineering replacement tissues,” said Andrew McCulloch, chair of the Department of Bioengineering. “This one-of-a-kind research laboratory also is attracting highly talented new faculty to UCSD to work on discoveries that we hope will improve the health of people in California, the country, and the world.”

In addition to the opportunity to renovate and purchase state-of-the-art equipment for the current facility, Willert noted that the development of the new satellite facility will enable development of promising new materials by a whole different arm of the science, taking full advantage of the broad scope of expertise at UCSD.  “The contribution of bioengineers and chemists will be key in the development of innovative new technologies that will drive the future growth and translation of stem cell science,” he said.

The UCSD project was one of 17 Shared Research Laboratories grants announced today by the 28-member Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The committee approved grants totaling approximately $50 million to researchers at academic and non-profit research centers throughout the state.  The grants – selected from among 22 applications from  California institutions – are designed to fund dedicated laboratory space for the culture and maintenance of hESC lines, in particular lines that fall outside of the federal research guidelines and therefore ineligible for support from the National Institutes of Health.

Media Contacts

Rex Graham
Jacobs School of Engineering

Debra Kain
UCSD School of Medicine

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