Stem Cells – Research |

Since the success in 1998 by the University of Wisconsins James Thomson in deriving human embryonic stem cells from embryos, the stem cell research field has exploded.

The discovery by Japans Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD,in 2006, of how to transform ordinary adult skin cells into cells that, like embryonic stem cells, are capable of developing into any cell in the human body, has revolutionized stem cell research.

At top, Robert Blelloch, MD, PhD, performs stem cell research. Above,Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, a scientist at the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institutes, UCSF and Kyoto University, was recognized for a revolutionary achievement in the field of stem cell science with a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2012.

In between and since, there has been major progress in scientists understanding of stem cells. Today, fueled in part by the robust research enterprise at UCSF, the field is burgeoning.Yamanaka, a senior investigator at the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institutes and a professor of anatomy at UCSF, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with John B. Gurdon of the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, England, in 2012.

In about 125 labs of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF one of the largest such programs in the country scientists are carrying out the basic research needed to understand how stem cells could be manipulated to treat diseases, to translate these findings into clinical research and to develop novel therapies.

In studies conducted in the culture dish and in animals, scientists are learning how to prompt stem cells to develop into specialized cells of tissues such as the heart, pancreas and brain. The ultimate goal is to transplant these cells into patients to regenerate damaged tissues.

The scientists also are exploring the use of stem cells as vehicles for delivering drugs into diseased tissues, and are using specialized cells produced by stem cells, such as liver and heart muscle cells, to test the effectiveness of experimental drugs in the culture dish. In addition, they are studying the role of stem cells in generating many forms of cancer, an important first step for targeting the cells for therapies.

The center is structured along seven research pipelines aimed at driving discoveries from the lab bench to clinical care. Each pipeline focuses on a different organ system: the blood, pancreas and liver, heart, reproductive organs, nervous system, musculoskeletal tissues and skin. And each pipeline is overseen by two leaders of international standing one representing the basic sciences and one representing clinical research. The approach has proven successful in the private sector for driving the development of new therapies.

Among the basic science studies being conducted by UCSF investigators are:

Exploring a novel stem cell strategy for treating brain diseases Five UCSF labs are pioneering a novel approach to treating brain diseases and injuries, using a particular type of embryonic stem cell to manipulate the brains neural circuitry. They recently reported the first use of the cells, which mature into neurons, in creating a new period of plasticity, or capacity to change, in the brains of rodents.

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Stem Cells - Research |

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