02 Feb Stem-cell research gets grant from M.J. Fox Foundation
Madison, Wis. — Su-Chun Zhang received another boost to his stem-cell research from a grant awarded on Monday by the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Zhang, an assistant professor of anatomy and neurology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s stem-cell research program, will receive approximately $340,000 from the foundation’s Cell Line II program and will be paid in installments over the course of his research.
The work done by Zhang’s team centers on finding the perfect time in human development to turn stem cells into spinal motor neurons and exposing the cells to the right conditions and growth hormones. Researchers believe these cells could be used to treat spinal cord injuries and combat degenerative nerve conditions like ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The Cell Line II program was developed by the Fox Foundation to support research on dopamine-producing neurons that can counter the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Since these neurons have a poor survival rate when transplanted, the center considers research like Zhang’s particularly important.
“Focused work in this area is an essential next step for stem cell research in Parkinson’s disease,” said MJFF president and CEO Deborah W. Brooks in a statement. “We’ve made cell transplantation a top priority because we view it as a high-potential avenue of Parkinson’s disease research that is currently underfunded by the federal government.”
Zhang was one of four scientists to receive Cell Line II grants, which totaled $1 million. The other recipients were Ernest Arenas of the Karolinska Institute, Jun Takahashi of the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, and Xuejun Wen of Clemson University. Projects funded include using human embryonic stem cells in monkeys and research to minimize scarring after a stem cell transplant.
Fox visited Madison on Tuesday to tour the Weisman Center and join Governor Jim Doyle in supporting biotechnology research.