CELL GRANT TO FUND RESEARCH, 2 NEW COURSES
Barbara has been awarded $1,343,859 over three years to fund basic
biological research in stem cells and to establish a graduate training
The campus is among the first 15 California institutions
to receive grants from the new California Institute for Regenerative
Medicine (CIRM). “It’s very exciting to be part of the first wave
of grantees,” said Dennis Clegg, chair of molecular, cellular, and
developmental biology (MCDB) and principal investigator for the
Two graduate students and four postdoctoral fellows
will be funded over three years with part of the grant. New graduate
courses in “Stem Cell Biology in Health and Disease” and “The Ethics
of Human Embryo Research,” will also be developed as integral to
the training. Some of the research will be carried out in the newly
established Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology in the Neuroscience
Research Institute, located in Biosciences II.
A few UCSB scientists are currently growing government-approved
human stem cells in this lab. Participating CIRM researchers will
come from MCDB, the College of Engineering, and the Neuroscience
Research Institute (NRI).
“We’ll have a special interdisciplinary committee
to oversee the ethics of the research,” said Ken Kosik, co-director
of NRI and a MCDB professor. “No one among (the researchers) desires
to clone humans.” Mice, worms, and sea squirts will constitute most
of the research animals.
The long-term goal of UCSB’s program is to understand
how human embryonic stem cells can transform themselves broadly
into the vast variety of nerve cells present in the brain, said
Kosik. In the beginning, every human cell has nearly the same basic
building blocks of DNA, he explained. But turning on and off certain
genetic switches determines if the cells grow into muscles, bone,
skin or organs, like the eyes and brain.
The grant will support a variety of interdisciplinary
studies of the basic biology of stem cells, including how these
control switches work. “We know some of the controls, but not all
of them,” said Kosik.
Martin Moskovits, dean of the Division of Mathematical,
Life and Physical Sciences, called the grant “a strong statement
that we are significant international players in the kind of biomedical
research from which important new therapies for human disease will
be developed.” He added, “We have already established important
partnerships with companies and medical schools with whom we intend
to pursue a vigorous research program.”
This award reflects UCSB’s interdisciplinary strengths
in molecular biology, neurobiology, and bioengineering, said Clegg.
“It will provide funding to train the next generation of scientists
in this important area of research…”
||Molecular biologists Ken Kosik,
left, and Dennis Clegg, right, supervise the newly established
Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology in which post doc Sherry Hikita
will do much of her research.