August 4, 2008
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences has added three new research programs to its ongoing effort aimed at uncovering the basic biology of human embryonic stem cells. The results of these studies are expected to deepen our understanding of the capacity of stem cells to continually renew themselves and to give rise to different cell types. Thorough knowledge of these unique properties of stem cells is critical for scientists seeking to understand human development and devise stem cell-based therapies.
The programs will bring together multidisciplinary teams of scientists under the leadership of Stephen Dalton, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Georgia; James A. Thomson, Ph.D., V.M.D., a professor of anatomy at the University of Wisconsin; and Jerome A. Zack, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Each group will receive about $9 million over 5 years.
Dalton’s group will address the molecular underpinnings of the early steps stem cells take in becoming specialized cell types. The scientists will also seek to identify the genetic and protein modification patterns that accompany this process of differentiation.
Thomson’s group will study how stem cells choose between self-renewal and the initial step toward becoming a specialized cell. They will also investigate how cells that have begun to differentiate can be programmed to return to an embryonic stem cell-like state. In addition, the team will work to develop methods for the large-scale production of stem cells.
Zack’s group will seek to uncover the changes in gene activity patterns that drive stem cells toward becoming nerve, reproductive, or blood cells. In addition, the group will develop new methods for detecting changes in gene activity and for the long-term growth of stem cells in culture.
All three research programs will offer training for scientists seeking to gain expertise in the specialized techniques needed to work with embryonic stem cells and will serve as a source of reagents, technical support, and methodology development. The human embryonic stem cells used in these programs are limited to the federally approved cell lines listed on the National Institutes of Health Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry.
The new programs join an NIGMS effort launched in 2003 to explore the basic molecular and genetic features of human embryonic stem cells. Prior to the latest awards, the initiative has included six exploratory centers, two multidisciplinary research programs, and several independent research projects and supplements.
To learn more about these programs, see http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Initiatives/StemCells/ or contact the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 301-496-7301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.