Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More stem cell research space = jobs and therapies

The Lorry I. Lokey Stem Cell Research Building
We’re in the middle of a big week for CIRM-funded research facilities. UCLA opened the doors to their new CIRM-funded stem cell research space Monday (here's a video about that building) and today Stanford cuts the ribbon on the largest of the CIRM buildings — a gleaming 200,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility. According to the Stanford press release about their Lorry I. Lokey Stem Cell Research Building:
The building’s 200,000 square feet of floor space, serving about 550 occupants, makes it the largest dedicated stem cell research building in the country, if not the world. But just as important, it was financed without any federal funding — buffering its occupants to some degree from the vagaries of embryonic stem cell politics. 
The buildings are part of CIRM’s Major Facilities RFA, given out in May 2008 when federal funding could only be spent for stem cell research involving a small number of approved cell lines. That included working with unapproved lines in buildings created or supported through federal funds, which ruled out most available research space for work involving unapproved human embryonic stem cell lines. The CIRM buildings provide space free and clear for working with whichever stem cell lines scientists think will move the field toward new cures.

CIRM awarded $271 million to 12 institutions, each of which was required to raise additional funds through private donations. Altogether, CIRM’s investment brought in an additional $800 million in financial commitments and created construction jobs throughout the state at a time when those jobs were very much needed. This week's building openings came about thanks to a $20 million donation to UCLA and a $30 million gift to USC by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and a $75 million gift from Lorry I. Lokey to Stanford University.

Following today’s ceremony at Stanford, the University of Southern California will hold their grand opening Friday. Altogether, those three buildings created 322,000 square feet of new research space, all of it free of federal funding and therefore available for research into all types of stem cells regardless of what happens with the current court cases. This space has the capacity to house nearly 1,000 members of research teams.

Stanford gave a nice description of how having stem cell researchers housed together in well equipped space will speed the research that takes place. They quote Theo Palmer, who works on stem cell therapies for neurodegenerative diseases:
“We used to have to plan our day around getting our samples where they needed to be when they needed to be there. Now some of the best resources in the world are immediately available — including extraordinary cell-sorting capabilities and some of the most advanced single-cell genetic-profiling equipment. At other places in the country these resources are essentially not available, or available only by special arrangement.”
That time saved means CIRM grantees can work faster than ever toward new disease therapies.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Victoria-California stem cell collaboration tames the immune system

The Victoria, Australia, innovation Minister Gavin Jennings is talking up a Victoria-California research team working to develop a therapy for autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
“The project highlights the value of collaboration between world-leading centres like Victoria and California in biotechnology and stem cell research. It is yet another demonstration of our commitment to take action to improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world.”
The team is one of CIRM’s Transplantation Immunology Awards, this one led by Kenneth Weinberg at Stanford University (read a summary of their project). In that same round of funding a Victorian scientist teamed up with Scripps Research Institute’s Jeanne Loring.

CIRM has formed collaborative partnerships with ten organizations in U.S. States or internationally. These are intended to build partnerships between leading stem cell scientists, wherever they may be working. As a state agency, CIRM’s money only goes to the California researchers, with our partners supporting their scientists. So far it’s been a very successful program, with 14 awards including international research partners in Canada, Germany, Japan, the U.K., and Victoria, Australia. You can find those awards on our stem cell grants table.

In the project Jennings discussed, the researchers are looking for a way of regulating the immune system, which causes autoimmune diseases when it attacks the body’s own organs and tissues.
“This project is critical to us learning more about how to regulate the immune system in a bid to enhance the potential of stem cell derived tissue transplants as therapies to combat MS and other conditions.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

The CIRMy's: Top awards to stem cell videos

On January 16, 2009 CIRM began our glamorous TV career, launching the YouTube channel CIRMTV. Despite our fabulous onscreen talent the Emmys have yet to call (though they are welcome to comment below...). Still, we’re pretty pleased with the channel’s success. Today we reached 100,000 views to our videos, which include some educational pieces about stem cell research and a disease-focused series about individual conditions that CIRM-funded researchers are working to address.

Overall, our videos are most popular in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, the Philippines, and Sweden. The top ten views have gone to:

1) Parkinson's Disease: Progress and Promise in Stem Cell Research

2) Hans Keirstead: Developing therapies based on embryonic stem cells

3) Jerome Zack: Creating iPS Cells

4) Macular Degeneration: Progress and Promise in Stem Cell Research

5) Irv Weissman: Differences between Adult and Embryonic Stem Cells

6) Bringing Stem Cell Cures to the Clinic: UC Davis GMP Facility

7) Catriona Jamieson: Therapies Based on Cancer Stem Cells

8) Paul Knoepfler: Tumor Formation in Embryonic Stem Cells

9) Huntington's Disease: Progress and Promise in Stem Cell Research

10) CIRM Major Facilities Speed Stem Cell Science and Create Jobs

I’m going to give an editor’s choice award to a video we made about our Bridges to Stem Cell Research program. The passion these students have for stem cell research and for their future careers is exciting to see:

CIRM Bridges Award: Building California's Stem Cell Research Workforce 


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Knocking out leukemia stem cells

A good report about bone marrow transplantation in progress comes from the National Hockey League, of all places. Mandi Schwartz, a Yale women’s hockey player, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and is being treated at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

In the name of full disclosure, that’s the center that cured my mother’s lymphoma, so let’s just say I’m a fan. wrote a nice description of how bone marrow transplantation knocks out leukemia stem cells. Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer that begins in the bone marrow stem cells — the cells that continuously produce new blood and immune cells throughout a person’s life. A bone marrow transplant essentially replaces the cancerous leukemia stem cells with new ones from a donor, like an organ transplant but with bone marrow. The NHL writes:
Engraftment, which was the next phase in her recovery, is needed in order for the transplanted stem cells to begin to grow in her bone marrow and manufacture new blood cells and immune cells... Complete recovery of a new immune system can take a year or longer depending on any complications as a result of the transplant.
Bone marrow transplants like this one are effective, but dangerous. The process of eliminating a person’s diseased bone marrow leaves the person extremely weak and prone to infections. This danger is why several CIRM grantees are working on a less toxic way of killing off the diseased bone marrow stem cells (here's a list of our awards targeting blood cancers). Irving Weissman at Stanford University has found molecules on the surface of the stem cells underlying acute myelogenous leukemia. He has a CIRM disease team award to develop a chemotherapy that could destroy those cells in a way that’s far less toxic than bone marrow transplant.

If that research is successful, future people like Schwartz may recover from acute myelogenous leukemia with fewer side effects. As someone who has seen a family member battle cancer, fewer side effects for an effective therapy is a winning combination.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Basic research and the search for cures

Two interesting reports today discuss the relationship between basic research and the kind of translational research that is the most visible sign of progress toward cures.

In his blog, the director of the bay area biotech collaborative QB3 Regis Kelly writes about public speakers at the Translational Medicine Alliance speaking out against basic research. He says:
Repeatedly mentioned with disdain was the amount of money that went into R01 grants, the single investigator grants that are the backbone of fundamental research in the US. Over 80% of the grants go to R01s, it was said, while only 2 to 5% go to translational research, the mantra of the meeting participants.
This is the same type of research funded by CIRM’s Basic Biology Awards and in some New Faculty Awards. The basic discoveries that come out of this kind of research are considered to be the fuel in the pipeline leading to new cures: No new ideas? No new therapies.

Kelly advocates rather than ignoring the complaints, “put our house in order and mount a major public education campaign to validate our position.” That is, do what can be done to make basic research as efficient and effective as possible then explain to members of the public just what they are getting for their money.
Or we can discount the criticisms as uninformed foolishness, and do nothing. That could be suicidal!
Kelly’s point is a good one. Most people have at least one friend or family member with a critical disease, and those people want to see new cures coming from publically funded research. Until the relationship between basic research and new cures is made clearer people will likely continue pushing for less basic research.

While Kelly defends basic research, the head of the National Cancer Institute Harold Varmus held a brainstorming session to figure out the basic questions in cancer research. According to Science magazine:
Once the list is finished, Varmus might hold a special competition to invite proposals for several questions and fund, say, 15 of the best ideas. Research funding may be tight, but "we've got over a $5 billion budget," Varmus says. Nothing has been decided, though. Right now, he says, "we're just trying to have a conversation that evolves into something useful."
Stanford’s Irv Weissman, who was at Varmus’ session, gave an excellent talk to the CIRM governing board about the value of basic research. In his case, it was a basic discovery about stem cell biology that led to cancer research that’s now moving toward the clinic.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stem cell videos make the grade

One amazing aspect of living in the era of social media is the incredible way information spreads. A butterfly batting its little orange wings in a monarch grove in Santa Cruz could influence a tweet of a blogger heard ‘round the world.

Or, in CIRM’s case, a few videos playing on YouTube could be used by a teacher heard 'round the world. In the past week a video about the difficulties of differentiating stem cells into therapeutically useful cell types has popped up in the curriculum of Harrison College, which offers a number of online and classroom courses. The video, which has been watched hundreds of times in the past week by those students, features Mark Mercola of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute who is working to differentiate cardiac cells from human embryonic stem cells. Here’s that video:

In the past, a video about iPS cells featuring Jerome Zack from UCLA has made its way into college curricula, as has a video discussing the different types of stem cells with Stanford University’s Irv Weissman. These videos are all part of a stem cell basics CIRM put together to help educate people about stem cell research both in written form and in short videos.

Given the misperceptions of stem cell research in the public and in the media its nice to see these videos getting discovered and used for educational purposes.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Growing space for California stem cell research

On left and right, Berkeley Stem Cell Center co-directors
David Schaffer and Randy Shekman, and center,
Mary West, manager of the new lab. (Photo by Jan Ambrosini)
Berkeley is the most recent institution to open new stem cell space funded by CIRM. Their CIRM-funded stem cell facility, which had its opening Oct. 5, is also a core facility for QB3, a bay area biotech incubator. David Shaffer, co-director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center, said of the facility:
“The new facility will serve as a central resource to greatly enhance stem cell research amongst Berkeley and QB3 investigators, as well as collaborators at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.”
To date, University of California campuses at Irvine and Davis have both opened their new stem call buildings amidst much fanfare. By the end of October, UCLA, University of Southern California, and Stanford will all have cut their respective ribbons.

These buildings are, to a one, beautiful, gleaming, well equipped centers for cutting edge research. But they are more than that. They are also a safe haven for stem cell research, protected from the ups and downs of federal funding. CIRM first dreamed up and approved funding for these stem cell buildings when President Bush was in office and most stem cell research had to occur in isolation from the microscopes, the pipettes, the refrigerators, the reagents, and the latex gloves most labs purchase with their NIH funds. The research had to take place in space and on lab benches supported only through private or state dollars.

That space was hard to come by, making the early days of stem cell research a considerable challenge. Take Susan Fisher at UCSF who lost her stem cell lines to a power outage while working in a converted dentist office in San Francisco in order to put distance between her cells and federal dollars. (Here's a video about Fisher's experience)

In the past year President Obama opened up federal funding for more stem cell research, but now recent events put that funding back in question. During this time of uncertainty, it’s reassuring to know that so many institutions in California have space where their work toward new therapies can continue uninterrupted by political turmoil.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best. Analogy. Ever: Why we need all types of stem cells

Today CIRM began a three-day external review of its activities. It began with a public session which included what might be the best analogy ever for why we need to continue working with all types of stem cells: adult, cancer, iPS and embryonic.

Rodney Paul, who has type 1 diabetes, showed up to discuss his hopes for a future cure. He pointed out that on this day the world saw awe-inspiring images of the first of 33 miners rising out of the Chilean mine where they’d been trapped — and that those miners were rescued through one of three shafts that had been dug as part of the rescue mission.

The shaft in question was dubbed “Plan B”. Drilling on plans A and C didn’t go as smoothly as hoped. That’s why on an important mission where time is limited and lives are at stake it’s important not to pin all hopes on one strategy.

Will one stem cell type turn out to be most effective? Maybe. Do we know which one that is? Not yet.

That’s why CIRM funds all types of stem cell research in the hopes of reaching new cures as quickly as possible. You can find out more about the different stem cell types used in CIRM research projects in our searchable table.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Geron trial -- baby steps toward a cure

Today Geron announced that the first patient had been treated in their groundbreaking trial based on human embryonic stem cells.

At first blush: Woo hoo!! This is the first test of technology that holds hope for millions of people living with spinal cord injury and other diseases.

But it’s important to remember that this first trial is a very, very early step. Any potential therapy goes through three rounds of human trials. The first, phase I, trial is intended only to verify that the potential therapy is safe. This trial can establish dosing and begin to monitor side effects of the drug or treatment. In some cases a phase I trial will also begin to reveal whether the drug or therapy has signs of effectiveness, but that’s not the primary role of the trial.

After the small phase I trial comes a slightly larger phase II trial. It confirms safety and also begins to look directly at whether the drug or therapy is effective.

It isn’t until some years later that a large phase III trial confirms whether the drug or therapy is effective compared to standard therapy.

Many potential therapies fail after the phase I trial, even after years of positive results in animals. Humans aren’t mice (or other laboratory animals) and scientists can’t ever know what side effects will turn up in their human patients.

That’s why it is important to temper that initial “woo hoo” with a bit of patience. This could be one of those trials that fails phase I. Or phase II. Or phase III. But as many years of biomedical research have shown, for every failed trial there are also a number of successful trials. Whatever the results of this first phase I trial, it’s the beginning of a new era that will one day result in the first successful therapy based on human embryonic stem cells. That day will have scientists and patients alike whooping for joy.

Here's patient advocate Roman Reed talking about what a stem cell therapy for spinal cord injury means to him:

Patient advocates vital to stem cell research progress

Nature Medicine carried a piece Friday by CIRM governing board member Jeff Sheehy, writing about the importance of having a patient advocate voice in biomedical research. Sheehy, who is living with HIV, is a long-time advocate for HIV/AIDS research. He has been on the CIRM board since the beginning in November 2004, and is a vocal participant in CIRM working groups including the group that makes research funding recommendations to the full board (the Grants Working Group), for which he is vice-chair.

Sheehy writes:
The presence of vocal, engaged patient advocates has added an indispensable dimension to the proceedings. In measuring research quality, advocates tend to focus on a project's ability to benefit people—not just drive scientific curiosity—which keeps even basic biomedical research grounded in its ability to produce concrete health benefits.
CIRM’s governing board includes 12 patient advocates representing HIV/AIDS, MS, diabetes (type 1 and type 2), heart disease, spinal cord injury, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and autism. Sheehy goes on to say:
... CIRM is made up of patient advocates from a wide spectrum of diseases and conditions who work together to advance therapies across the board. And contrary to critics' assertions, these advocates have not narrowly focused on their own diseases, but have uniformly advocated for the best approaches for moving basic research towards the clinic. They support each other.
Patient advocates serve a powerful role even if they aren’t directly involved in funding decisions. Don Reed has been a vocal supporter of stem cell research since his son Roman Reed suffered a spinal cord injury. He is sponsor of the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act that funds spinal cord research in California, founder and co-chair of Californians for Cures and blogger on his own site and for the Huffington Post.

In a recent Huffington Post blog entry about the World Stem Cell Summit he wrote about the importance of patient advocates staying involved in stem cell research at a political level, in order to maintain the U.S. leadership in stem cell research:
But unless we in the patient advocacy community can encourage Congress to pass a stem cell research protection act the dream will have been stolen.
CIRM came about in part because of the passion and support of patient advocates like Sheehy and Reed, and they continue to be a crucial part of the success of CIRM and of the progress made in stem cell research.

Here's Sheehy advocating for a stem cell therapy for HIV/AIDS. CIRM has funded two disease teams (City of Hope and UCLA) focusing on developing therapies for the disease.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New poll finds widespread support for stem cell research

A new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll came to the not-so-startling conclusion that most Americans support using embryos left over from in vitro fertilization for research purposes, including human embryonic stem cell research.

According to the report, Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll that conducted to online survey said:
"Even among Catholics and born-again Christians, relatively few people believe that stem cell research should be forbidden because it is unethical or immoral."
The process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) can result in ten or more embryos. If a woman gets pregnant quickly, then the remaining embryos stay in a freezer until the couple decides they no longer want to pay for storage. At that time, the couple can either put the embryos up for adoption (an option rarely chosen), discard the embryos — destroying them — or donate them to research. In order to donate those embryos to research rather than discarding them, a couple must give full informed consent that they understand how the resulting stem cells will be used. The NIH will only approve lines for funding that have clear consent and were derived from excess IVF embryos.

One telling finding from the survey was:
Seventy-three percent (versus 72 percent in 2005) believe that stem cell research should be allowed "as long as the parents of the embryo give their permission, and the embryo would otherwise be destroyed."
A recent post on the Baker Institute blog had a nice analysis of the relationship between IVF and stem cell research. In it, the authors write:
With such wide support for IVF, it is remarkable that there is still such a public outcry in the United States over the use of leftover embryos for scientific research. From a moral standpoint, one can argue that in both cases an embryo is destroyed and the destruction of an embryo is always wrong. But isn't it worse to discarding an embryo than to use the embryo for research and development of treatments for currently incurable diseases? Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to bring relief to people suffering from diseases such as Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy and diabetes, as well as catastrophic injuries including those to the spinal cord.
Federal agencies such as the NIH can only fund research with already created embryonic stem cell lines. They cannot fund the creation of new lines from discarded IVF embryos. This work is often funded by private agencies or organizations such as CIRM. Here’s a list of all CIRM-funded grants for the creation of new lines.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stem cell awareness, poetry, and the blues

Stem Cell Awareness Day is underway, which is both true and practically rhymes, making it a fitting opening for a post about poems.

We held the second annual poetry contest this year in conjunction with events and seminars being held worldwide. Entries were judged by Don Reed, sponsor of the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act and stem cell blogger, and Margaret Hermes, MA in poetry from Boston University, a PhD from Indiana University and a practicing poet and teacher.

From among 18 entries hailing from six countries they selected two winners and two finalists. You can read those poems on our official announcement.

But it’s not all serious around here when it comes to stem cells. Among my favorite poems are these two non-entries, which weren’t in the official contest. One is from Tom Vasich, assistant director of communications at UC Irvine. The other is from Chris Stiehl, who works with CIRM to reach out to patient groups throughout California.

Just like those pluripotent blues
By Tom Vasich

I shot some stem cells in my vein
With hopes that they would reach my brain
And trigger many proteins there
To help grow back my missing hair

The stem cell source was highly pure
And guaranteed to spark a cure
Their lineage was unapproved
Which the DOJ so doth moved

“Illegally pluripotent”
Said the letter I was sent
“Are those cells now in your melon
Take them out or you’re a felon”

Too late, the cells had taken hold
To which my mien grew thick and bold
What should have been a source of pride
Under a cap I now must hide

So how I fell into this mix
I place the blame on politics
Should I vote for a Democrat
Who’ll free me to remove my hat?

Or should I move to Mexico
Where I can let my new hair grow?
By choosing how I want to live
I now become a fugitive

Oh, somewhere in this world so bright
People have the legal right
For stem cell usage as they choose
I’ve got those pluripotent blues

Stem Cell Research at the Bat
By Chris Stiehl

An adaptation of “Casey at the Bat”
by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Stem Cell nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Research could get but a whack at that -
We'd put up $3 billion, now, with Research at the bat.

But McCulloch preceded Research, as did also Jimmy Till,
The former was a quondam doctor and the latter was too young still;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Research's getting to the bat.

But McCullough let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Till, the bio-physicist, tore the cover off the ball;
And when their Nature piece was published, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and McCullough a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
Prop 71 rumbled through California’s central valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the Sierras and recoiled upon the flat,
For Research, mighty Research, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Research's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was hope in Research's studies and renewal on Research's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Research at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he injected marrow into mice;
Five thousand tongues applauded when stem cells grew like rice.
Then while the litigious pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Research's eye, a sneer curled Research's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
Research stood a-watching it; with scientific curiosity, not despair.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
"That ain't my style," said Research. "Strike one," the judge had said.

From the benches, from hope-filled people, there went up a muffled roar,
People awaiting cures and treatments, like waves upon a distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the judge!" shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they'd a-killed him had not Research raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Research's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; CIRM bade the game go on;
Research signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Research still ignored it, and the judge said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the labs and scientists, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Research and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Research wouldn't let that funding ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Research's lip, to the chucker he shouts “Curtains!”;
His firmness of conviction makes the outcome predictable, certain.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Research's blow.

Somewhere in this great land of ours it’s cloudy, there is no sun;

And somewhere cytoplasts are no longer studied, investigators have no fun;

And somewhere over silent labs there hangs a heavy pall;
In California, Stem Cell hearts are happy now--for Research hit the ball.


Nobel-winning IVF work laid groundwork for stem cell research

On Monday the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to Robert Edwards for his efforts to make in vitro fertilization a reality. The Nobel Prize-winning discovery not only allowed millions of couples to start families, it opened up the field of stem cell research.

According to the Nobel Prize press release:
Approximately four million individuals have so far been born following IVF. Many of them are now adult and some have already become parents. A new field of medicine has emerged, with Robert Edwards leading the process all the way from the fundamental discoveries to the current, successful IVF therapy. His contributions represent a milestone in the development of modern medicine.
Alan Trouson, CIRM president, was in the thick of the early IVF work. He led the team that produced Australia's first IVF baby -- the third in the world. He went on to develop ways of using fertility drugs and freezing embryos to increase the success rate of IVF. He was also among the first to realize the possibilities of taking stem cells from the unused embryos to create cells with the potential to become every cell in the body.

As a sign of how far the IVF field has come, on the same day that Edwards won his Nobel Prize researchers at Stanford University published work showing a technique for selecting which embryos have a 90% chance of resulting in a healthy blastocyst -- a stage of development at about 5 days old, when the embryo is implanted into the mother's womb.

According to a Stanford press release, about 2/3 of embryos created through IVF normally die. Improving those odds could greatly increase the rate of successful IVF pregnancies. The work was led by Renee Reijo Pera, who is also a CIRM grantee (Comprehensive Award and New Cell Lines Award). The release goes on the say:
“It completely surprised me that we could predict embryonic fate so well and so early,” said Reijo Pera. If an embryo’s values fell within certain windows of time for the three predictive parameters, that embryo was more than 90 percent likely to go on to develop successfully into a blastocyst.
Being able to predict which embryos will survive greatly improves a woman's chance of getting pregnant. Riejo Pera is quoted in the release as saying:
"Women, their families and their physicians want to increase the chances of having one healthy baby and avoid high-risk pregnancies, miscarriages or other adverse maternal and fetal outcomes. It’s truly a women’s health issue that affects the broader family.”
Reijo Pera stressed the importance of the work in understanding the earliest stages of human development, where many developmental anomalies are though to originate. It could also be important for the creation of new embryonic stem cell lines, which come from embryos that are discarded from IVF clinics.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Running, cycling and swimming for a cure

Any excuse to link stem cell research and a favorite activity...

In the top 10 list of our most popular entries, spinal cord injury ranked among the topics of most interest to readers. And for good reason. It's the first condition to be approved for an embryonic stem cell trial. It's also a terrible condition in dire need of a therapy.

Those readers interested in helping find a cure for spinal cord injury might want to check out the Team Reeve Marathon season. Short of toiling in the lab, this a great way to move the research forward. The Reeve Foundation will help train runners in return for their fund-raising efforts.

If running for a cure sounds appealing but your heart lies with an ailment other than spinal cord injury, you can check out your favorite disease charity. Many raise money by training volunteers for marathons, triathlons, cycling events and hikes.

The Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute also recently posted information about Team Sanford-Burnham in which fund-raisers run with the scientists whose work they are supporting.

As runner Judy Wade, a Team Stanford-Burnham enthusiast, says about marathons she's run:
"You have to remind yourself why you’re doing this, the cause. You feel really good about yourself when you’re finished.”
(She's right!)

While out there raising funds you can also raise awareness of stem cell research. Here are some answers to the most common misconceptions about stem cell research.


Friday, October 1, 2010

What's hot at 100?

This blog is turning 100 -- posts that is. On the eve of our centenial, here's a top 10 of what's hot:

1: Geron to begin stem cell trial for spinal cord injury
2: UC Irvine Opens the Sue & Bill Gross Hall
3: iPS cells and embryonic stem cells -- similar but not the same
4: CIRM grantee Joanna Wysocka wins Outstanding Young Investigator Award
5: Stem cells treat Parkinson's disease in rats
6: Update on stem cell treatments for spinal cord injury
7: Neural stem cells help mice with chronic spinal cord injury walk again
8: iPS and embryonic stem cells -- similar but not the same
9: The competition that isn't: Adult vs. embryonic stem cells
10: What the embryonic stem cell research ban means to California researchers

Of these, I'll admit a preference for #4. It's exciting to see enthusiastic young women scientists being recognized for their work. Wysocka, an assistant professor at Stanford University, credits her CIRM SEED grant (summary here) for pulling her into work with human embryonic stem cells. She's since gone on to receive a New Faculty Award (summary here) and was given among the highest scores for a recently submitted NIH grant for human embryonic stem cell work to address a devastating developmental disorder. That grant has been caught up in the recent funding battle (mentioned in this blog entry).