Yale, UConn receive 22 stem cell grants
Register Science Editor
Connecticut awarded 22 stem cell research grants totaling $9.84 million to Yale University and the University of Connecticut Wednesday.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell established the state’s 10-year, $100 million Stem Cell Research Fund in 2005 to pay for projects that are ineligible for grants from the federal government, which restricts them to a limited number of cell lines and will not finance research that uses embryonic stem cells.
“Connecticut remains at the forefront of investing in and supporting cutting-edge research in this emerging field,” Rell said.
This year, the third in the program but the second for grants, Yale received $6.54 million and UConn $3.3 million. During the first round of stem cell grants late in 2006, Yale, UConn and Wesleyan University shared $19.8 million in two installments.
Between now and 2015, the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee must allocate the remaining money for stem cell research in Connecticut.
Stem cells are considered extremely promising by many scientists because the cells can grow into practically any kind of tissue in the body.
Eventually, stem cells might be used to restore nerve insulation to fight multiple sclerosis, refashion insulin-making cells in the pancreas to ease diabetes, and protect eyes against macular degeneration.
While federal stem cell policy may become less rigid when a new administration takes office in 2009, the state program is still essential, said Dr. Marc Lalande, director of UConn’s Stem Cell Institute.
The National Institutes of Health still have a tight budget, he said, and freed federal money probably would not become available until 2010.
“Connecticut will have a leg up on other people who haven’t been doing this kind of research,” Lalande said. “In the end, the state stem cell program is an excellent investment.”
The supported research is geared toward translating advances into clinical treatments, Lalande said.
For example, Xuejun Li at the UConn Health Center will receive $450,000 to continue research into a muscular disorder, spinal muscular atrophy. At Yale, Dr. Eugene Redmond Jr. was awarded $1.12 million to study embryonic stem cells for treating Parkinson’s disease.
Dianqing Wu at Yale secured $446,818 to pursue research in cardiovascular disease and human embryonic stem cells.
These grants represent a concerted effort to speed discoveries to patients, Lalande said.
“It has always been the intent of the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee to fund the best stem cell research proposals that Connecticut scientists can offer,” said state Public Health Commissioner Dr. J. Robert Galvin,
“After careful consideration and review by both an international panel of experts and by this advisory committee, we are confident that we have been true to our charge, and that these investments will yield significant scientific findings in the long term,” Galvin said.
The largest grants include:
‰$1.8 million to maintain and enhance Yale’s human embryonic stem cell core, a hub for training and information storage.
‰$900,000 to establish a core facility at UConn.
‰$634,880 to the UConn Center of Regenerative Biology to explore tissue repair using pluripotent cells.