03 Feb UW stem-cell team led by James Thomson gets $1.25M private grant
Madison, Wis. — The W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles has given University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers a $1.25 million grant to study how stem-cell cultures remain able to develop any other type of cell indefinitely.
Human embryonic stem cells, which lead scientist James Thomson was the first to grow in a sustained culture, can propagate essentially forever unless they are given some impetus to form other kinds of cells – blood, tissue, neurons or anything else in the body.
The grant will fund a three-year genetic study of how stem cells differentiate – that is, form into the different cells. The researchers want to find out how to make adult stem cells, which typically have a limited generative ability, more like embryonic cells – a discovery that would directly address moral concerns about using the cells of embryos.
Thomson said the restricted federal funding for stem-cell research is inadequate, so private funds are appreciated. UW-Madison is fortunate, however, to have five of the stem-cell lines that can be legally used in federally funded research after President Bush’s 2001 order limiting such funds to existing cultures.
The team is rounded out by Francesco Cerrina, director of the Center for Nanotechnology; Michael R. Sussman, director of the UW Biotechnology Center; and Audrey Gasch, assistant professor of genetics.