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Recovery Act funds expand studies of stem cell biology

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health, is using $5.4 million of Recovery Act funds to accelerate basic studies of induced pluripotent stem cells. These cells, abbreviated iPS, are reprogrammed from skin or other easily obtained adult cells and appear to be similar to stem cells derived from embryos.

In theory, iPS cells could generate any type of cell and be used to treat diseases. But to realize this potential, scientists need a much better understanding of iPS cells' fundamental properties and how to efficiently derive cells that are safe for therapeutic uses.

To speed iPS research, NIGMS has awarded one-year grant supplements to 22 scientists at 16 institutions in 12 states and the District of Columbia. The investigators already have strong records of accomplishment in a range of research areas and will study iPS cells in varied biological systems.

"Stem cell biology is poised for rapid advances, and we expect our Recovery Act investment to have a catalytic effect. The new awards will contribute to the field's progress by enhancing the utility of iPS cells as tools for research, for testing the effects of drugs on human tissues and ultimately for patient-specific treatments," said NIGMS Director Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D.

The Recovery Act funding will allow the scientists to address such important questions as:

  • How does reprogramming work?
  • What factors are necessary to create iPS cells efficiently and safely?
  • What drives iPS cells toward a desired cell type that can be used to regenerate or repair damaged tissues in a patient?
  • Do iPS cells differ from embryonic and adult stem cells, and if so, how?

The investigators receiving supplements are:

  • Bruce Beutler, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif.
  • C. Anthony Blau, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Richard Cerione, Cornell University

Contact: Ann Dieffenbach
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences

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