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Creation of new human embryonic stem cell lines announced

by David Bauman - February 2, 2009


UConn researchers have created two new human embryonic stem cell lines and are making the lines available to academic researchers to study the therapeutic potential of the cells.

The two new lines signify a milestone in the state’s pioneering stem cell program, which was approved by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed by Gov. Rell in 2005.

The state committed $100 million to fund stem cell research and training programs for 10 years.

The ability to provide human embryonic stem cell lines is essential for investigators to make discoveries that can be translated into new treatments and cures for diseases.

Passage of the Stem Cell Investment Act made Connecticut the third state in the nation to provide public funding for embryonic and human adult stem cell research.

It established a competitive process for awarding state stem cell research grants and created the publicly appointed Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee, chaired by the Commissioner of Public Health.

State funds awarded in April 2007 were used to establish a $2.5 million Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core laboratory led by Dr. Ren-He Xu at the UConn Health Center, where the two new stem cell lines – identified as CT1 and CT2 – were developed by postdoctoral fellow Ge Lin and coworkers in Xu’s lab.

UConn joins an elite group of universities – including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harvard, and the University of California-San Francisco – that have created human embryonic stem cell lines.

“Three years ago, when we committed $100 million over 10 years as part of our Stem Cell Investment Act, there were some who asked ‘Is it worth it?’” says Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

“The world-class researchers and scientists in Connecticut are answering that question with a resounding ‘Absolutely!’ The news that UConn researchers created two new stem cell lines comes just 18 months after receiving funding.

“So we are getting great returns on that investment,” Rell adds, “and we know the possibilities for health care therapies from this cutting-edge research are limitless.”

The Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee has allocated nearly $30 million in two rounds of funding that is supporting research labs at UConn and its Health Center, Yale, and Wesleyan.

The grants have assisted in building core facilities, initiated new research projects, enabled the recruitment of new faculty, and stimulated collaborations among scientists at universities and biotech industries throughout the state.

“Connecticut has emerged as a national leader in stem cell research and it didn’t happen by accident,” says Senate President Donald Williams.

“Three years ago we passed legislation that set the course for where we are now. The investment will continue to pay dividends, especially for Connecticut’s economy, and it is critical that we make its survival one of our highest priorities as we balance the budget.”

The UConn Stem Cell Core facility serves as a storage, distribution, and training center for human embryonic stem cells, and is developing new human embryonic stem cell lines and new stem cell technology for researchers statewide.

It provides stem cell lines to more than 30 labs at UConn, Yale, and Wesleyan; has trained more than 100 researchers and graduate students in stem cell culture; and provides technical support for research and training throughout the state.

University President Michael Hogan says the state’s funding program has drawn into the field a broad spectrum of scientists who traditionally have not conducted research with human embryonic stem cells, in part due to federal funding restrictions.

Federal funding for research on human embryonic stem cells to date has been limited to lines created before Aug. 9, 2001. But the regulations do not restrict research on stem cell lines created using state or private funds.

“The State of Connecticut has been very smart in its grant-making strategy,” says Hogan. “The grants issued so far have allowed universities to lay the groundwork for preparing a generation of stem cell scientists.”

For more information on the UConn Stem Cell Core lab, go to http://genetics.uchc.edu/stemcell/index.htm

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