LA JOLLA, CA--The Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Columbia University Medical Center have been awarded a $15 million grant by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, establishing a collaborative program to fast-track the use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to gain new insight into disease mechanisms and screen for novel therapeutic drugs.
"Stem cell research is of immense importance to the future of biomedical research and will have a major impact in treating and preventing devastating diseases," said Fred H. Gage, Ph.D., a professor in the Laboratory for Genetics at the Salk Institute and the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases.
"The funding from The Helmsley Trust will accelerate and deepen our research efforts in stem cell biology, already an area of strength at the Salk Institute. In addition, this funding allows researchers at the Salk to join forces with outstanding researchers at Columbia University in a synergistic enterprise that will bring stem cell research closer to fulfilling its promise," he said.
The ability to reprogram adult human cells into iPS cells, which by all appearances look and act like embryonic stem cells, creates a unique opportunity to study human disease in revolutionary ways. After taking a few skin cells from patients, researchers can generate iPS cells and differentiate them into the type of tissue where a disease is manifest.
Over the course of the three-year grant, the Salk will develop a stem cell bank of well-characterized iPS cells derived from patients suffering from debilitating neurological, cardiac and hematological conditions. Both institutions will use these cell lines and other stem cell-based tools to generate the cell types (nerve cells, muscle, blood cells and other tissues) affected in a wide range of diseases, and to determine the molecular causes of disease phenotypes.
These cell-based mode
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