Harvard Stem Cell Institute Sees Growth

At its founding eight years ago, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute had fewer than ten principal faculty members, according to Benjamin D. Humphreys, co-director of the HSCI Kidney Program. Today, that number has ballooned to more than 80.

In the past decade, Harvard has increasingly poured resources into groundbreaking research in one of the largest collections of stem cell research labs in the country.

According to HSCI co-director Douglas A. Melton, a professor in the stem cell and regenerative biology department, there are more than 800 Harvard affiliates in stem cell science scattered throughout roughly 80 laboratories. The largest concentration of stem cell researchers are located in Harvards Sherman Fairchild Building, which reopened in August of 2011 after it underwent a two-year demolition and reconstruction project to accommodate the stem cell and regenerative biology department.

In the past decade, Harvard has focused on centralizing this research with the creation of HSCI and the stem cell and regenerative biology department.

HSCI consists of scientists and practitioners interested in stem cell research from all over the Harvard community, including the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the medical school, and 11 teaching hospitals and research institutions including the Childrens Hospital Boston and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

So far, HSCI has given out more than $100 million to its researchers, according to Humphreys.

"[Harvard has] definitely made a tangible commitment to stem cell research," Humphreys said. "The results are that we are leaders in certain areascertainly I can speak of the kidneynot even just in the U.S., but worldwide in terms of stem cell research in the kidney."

With important potential applications such as the generation of cells and tissues that could be used for cell-based therapies, stem cells are at the forefront of scientific research. Stem cells, which can differentiate into specific cell types, offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat some of the most serious diseases.

"What were doing at the HSCI Kidney Group is working collaboratively to identify new therapeutic strategies that will help slow disease progression," said Humphreys.

Still, Humphreys added that much more research is necessary before scientists can use stem cells to their fullest potential.

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Harvard Stem Cell Institute Sees Growth

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