WiCell Research Institute Launches New Stem Cell Bank
News Aug 25, 2008
The WiCell Research Institute, a private, not-for-profit supporting organization to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is launching its own stem cell bank to distribute cell lines beyond the 21 lines eligible for federal funding and distribution through the National Stem Cell Bank (NSCB).
"We are establishing the WiCell Bank to grow, test, store and distribute cell lines the National Stem Cell Bank currently is unable to offer since it is limited to the 21 human embryonic stem cell lines approved for federal funding,” states Erik Forsberg, executive director of the WiCell Research Institute, which hosts the NSCB for the National Institutes of Health under a federal contract.
“We will follow methods, protocols and quality control standards at the WiCell Bank similar to those we’ve developed and refined over the past three years for the National Stem Cell Bank, Forsberg continued.
The WiCell Bank is beginning its operation by offering three iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cell lines, genetically reprogrammed from human skin cells to an embryonic state, derived in the laboratory of stem cell pioneer Dr. James Thomson, an anatomy professor at the UW-Madison and director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research, part of the new Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
Forsberg hopes to add additional cell lines, such as disease model cell lines, from other providers locally and worldwide to the WiCell Bank in the near future.
“We know from our experience in starting WiCell nine years ago, that banking stem cells is a difficult and time-consuming commitment,” he states. “We hope our unique experience in developing an effective and efficient operation with world-class testing, training and services attracts many other cell line providers to our bank.”
Forsberg states that the bank is starting with iPS cells because “they represent the next generation of stem cell research.” He explains that through WiCell, the cells will be readily available to academic researchers around the world who are eager to compare the Thomson lab’s iPS cells to similar cells they’ve developed in their own labs, as well as to human embryonic stem (hES) cells.
The three iPS cell lines have been distributed directly from the Thomson lab since last November, when his research team, led by Dr. Junying Yu, announced the breakthrough discovery of these cells. The cells provide an alternative to using embryos to create pluripotent stem cells, the ‘blank slate’ cells that can develop into any of the more than 200 tissues of the body.
In addition to easing many of the ethical and political issues of the stem cell debate, iPS cells open up the field of regenerative medicine by making it possible to reprogram a patient’s own cells for therapeutic purposes, thereby eliminating immune rejection issues.