Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have been awarded $2.8 million by the State of Illinois’s Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute.
Of the total, $2 million will be used to establish a Center for the Development of Stem Cell Therapies for Human Diseases.
Dr. Ronald Hoffman, Eileen Heidrick Professor of Oncology at UIC College of Medicine is overall coordinator of the center, which will launch five stem cell research projects to target cancers and genetic disorders of the blood, acute respiratory distress syndrome and cardiac failure.
The UIC center’s five stem cell research projects will reflect the goal of the IRMI to provide state support for stem cell research to gain a better understanding of the causes of disease and to develop the capacity to treat and cure.
"The center will energize both basic research in stem cell biology and clinical research in the utilization of stem cell therapeutics," said Hoffman.
"Stem cell biology is one of the frontiers of modern biology, in which UIC already has considerable strength."
One project will focus on improving the recovery of stem cells from umbilical cord blood to treat blood cancers and genetic disorders of the blood.
Efforts to harvest the large numbers of stem cells from cord blood necessary to treat adults have been stymied by difficulties in keeping these stem cells alive and increasing their numbers in culture.
Another project, with the ultimate goal of regenerating cardiac cells in the failing human heart, will investigate the differentiation of embryonic and cord blood stem cells into cardiac cells.
A third project will focus on a genetic modification of a rare type of adult stem cell in the bone marrow, called mesenchymal stem cells, which will be studied for possible therapies for graft-versus-host disease, a common complication of transplantation.
Other projects include an investigation of strategies for improving the effectiveness of transplantation of human embryonic stem cells. The center will also generate several new embryonic stem cell lines for future use.
Investigators will be drawn from six departments and divisions of the UIC College of Medicine.
"The collaborative nature of this research reflects the UIC priority for interdisciplinary research and translational research in our strategic plan," said Eric Gislason, vice chancellor for research.