Eight grants to Stanford for stem cell studies

SEPT. 6, 2012

Eight Stanford University researchers have been awarded a total of $10.3 million by the state stem cell agency — the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine — to support basic research projects focused on stem cell science.

Steven Artandi

BY KRISTA CONGER

“This kind of basic research is essential to helping us answer some essential questions about stem cells,” said Pat Olson, PhD, executive director of scientific studies at CIRM. “The knowledge we gain from these studies will ultimately inform other work and advance our understanding of the fundamental mechanism of stem cell biology and move us ever closer to knowing how best to use stem cells to help patients.”

Ben Barres

CIRM was established in November 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. The statewide ballot measure provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions and required setting up the agency, CIRM, to oversee allocation of the money.

Stanford’s recipients of the Basic Biology grants are:

  • Ben Barres, MD, PhD, professor of neurobiology, of developmental biology and of neurology and neurological sciences, received $1.4 million to use induced pluripotent stem cell techniques to create and study astrocytes, a type of brain cell, from people with autism and schizophrenia.
  • Anne Brunet, PhD, associate professor of genetics, received $1.4 million to study how regulators of aging and metabolism could be used to improve the creation and differentiation of stem cells derived from middle-aged or elderly patients.
  • Howard Chang, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology, received $1.4 million to investigate the role of long non-coding RNA in the commitment of stem cells to specific cell fates.
  • Michael Cleary, MD, professor of pathology and of pediatrics, received $1.2 million to study how the prostaglandin pathway affects the ability of blood and leukemia stem cells to self-renew.
  • Gerald Crabtree, MD, professor of pathology and of developmental biology, received $1.4 million to examine ways to more efficiently convert human fibroblasts to specific subcategories of neurons through the use of microRNAs or transcription factors.
  • Alexander Dunn, PhD, assistant professor of chemical engineering, received $1.1 million to study how the mechanical forces experienced by stem cells in the body affect their self-renewal and differentiation.
  • Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences, received $1.3 million to understand the mechanisms that govern development and myelination by stem cells of white matter in the human brain.
  • Roel Nusse, PhD, professor of developmental biology, received $1.2 million to study how a signaling molecule, Wnt, governs the asymmetric division of stem cells.

The awards announced today are part of more than $38 million allocated to 28 projects in CIRM’s fourth round of “Basic Biology” grants. In total, Stanford researchers have received 18 Basic Biology grants from the institute, for a total of $24.5 million.

With these grants, Stanford has now received a total of about $260.8 million from the state stem cell agency.

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