NIGMS Funds New Programs to Study Stem Cell Biology


September 4, 2007

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has funded two new research programs to investigate the basic biology of human embryonic stem cells. The results of these studies are expected to improve understanding of how stem cells maintain their capacity to divide continually and how they give rise to specific cell types. Such knowledge is critical for the development of stem cell-based therapies.

The programs will bring together multidisciplinary teams of scientists under the leadership of C. Anthony Blau, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, and Margaret Goodell, Ph.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Blau's team, which will receive about $10 million over 5 years, will study the pathways human embryonic stem cells use to renew themselves. The scientists will also examine how the stem cells differentiate into heart muscle cells and retinal nerve cells.

Goodell's group, which will receive about $8.5 million over 5 years, will focus on the roles of four key proteins in enabling embryonic stem cells to renew themselves and differentiate.

Both research programs will include core facilities that will develop new methods and resources to advance research on human embryonic stem cells. The programs will also train investigators in the specialized techniques needed to study the cells. The source of human embryonic stem cells is limited to federally approved stem cell lines listed on the National Institutes of Health Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry.

The new programs join an ongoing NIGMS effort, launched in 2003, to uncover the basic molecular and genetic features of human embryonic stem cells. The initiative includes three exploratory centers and several independent research projects.

To learn more about these programs, contact the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 301-496-7301 or

NIGMS (, a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports basic biomedical research that is the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.