27 Apr Stem-cell study grows too big for one department; UW builds collaborative programs
Madison, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison is introducing two new stem-cell programs to lay the groundwork for future research and keep the university in a leading position.
Clive Svendsen, a professor of anatomy and neurology, said the university will create a regenerative medicine program and a postdoctoral research program focusing on cell-replacement therapies via stem cells. The program will use faculty from five departments of the UW-Madison Medical School and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.
“The idea is that there’s been a lot of advances in stem cell biology, and there’s hope we can transfer it into patient care,” said Timothy Kamp, an associate professor at the medical school’s cardiology program. Kamp and Svendsen will be the center’s directors.
According to Kamp, the new program is important for stem-cell development because the science has become too complicated for one department to handle alone. Transplanted cells need to be accepted by the body’s natural defenses and tracked as they grow and move through the body, and a steady supply of uncontaminated stem cells is vital.
These requirements and projects make regenerative medicine a high-risk venture, and a strong support group necessary. By bringing together the different branches at the university involved in similar projects, it will be easier for scientists to share information and develop their research.
As an example of how the new program would work, Kamp cited using cell therapy on a monkey at the primate center. With help from the anatomy and radiology departments at the medical school, it would be easier to get a hold of pure stem cells and monitor for the growth of related tumors.
“The idea of having a single investigator in one lab … clearly that model doesn’t work and the university recognizes that,” Kamp said. “We’re trying to set up cores that will be a resource to all these groups.”
Kamp said that establishing these programs will also help work through regenerative medicine’s problems of being a long-term technology. Several regenerative projects will likely take between five and 20 years to show results, investors are not eager to support the science and it doesn’t receive industry funding like drug trials, he said.
The research and training provided by the center will help develop a new generation of scientists, pushing the technology to a clinical level and hopefully encouraging more start-up companies from the university.
Kamp said he also hopes to see the establishment of a regenerative medicine research institute on the UW campus.
“I think anything is possible. This is such a new field it’s hard to tell where things will go,” Kamp said.