The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one ofthe National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded $170 million to be paidover seven years to 18 teams of research scientists to develop thehigh-potential field of stem and progenitor cell tools and therapies.
The awards create the NHLBI Progenitor Cell BiologyConsortium, which will bring together researchers from the heart, lung, blood,and technology research fields. A seven-year project, the consortium assemblesnine research hubs with multidisciplinary teams of principal investigators andan administrative coordinating center to focus on progenitor cell biology.
While a stem cell can renew itself indefinitely ordifferentiate, a progenitor cell can only divide a limited number of times andis often more limited than a stem cell in the kinds of cells it can become.Given the potential of these cells for clinical applications, the goals of theconsortium are to identify and characterize progenitor cell lines, direct thedifferentiation of stem and progenitor cells to desired cell fates, and developnew clinical strategies to address the unique challenges presented by thetransplantation of these cells.
"NHLBI is committed to stimulating stem cell research thatwill lead to the development of regenerative therapies for the treatment ofheart, lung, and blood diseases," said NHLBI Director Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel ina statement. "Important gaps remain in our understanding of stem and progenitorcells, and this consortium holds great promise to expand our knowledge anduncover therapeutic applications of great public impact."
The consortium's hubs—along with their participatinginstitutions, principal investigators and missions—include:
- Dr. James Thomson of The University of Wisconsin, Madisonand Dr. Daniel Garry of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities are expectedto provide a basic understanding of the hierarchy of cardiovascular precursorcells, stem cells that have developed to the stage where they are committed toforming a particular kind of blood cell. They will also research the molecularevents leading to the formation of blood-forming cells and stem cells as aprerequisite to therapeutic applications.
- Dr. Mortimer Poncz of the Children's Hospital ofPhiladelphia and Dr. Beverly Torok-Storb of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer ResearchCenter in Seattle will study the specialization of blood-forming cell lines,develop molecular interventions that will drive the formation of blood cellstoward desired lines, and establish new, functional platelets that potentiallymay be used for the targeted delivery of bioactive proteins.
- Dr. Robert Robbins of Stanford University and Dr. DeepakSrivastava of the J. David Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco plan to produceusable and reliable induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), artificiallyderived stem cells can give rise to any fetal or adult cell type that can beused for cell therapy in the heart.
- Dr. Antonis Hatzopoulos of Vanderbilt University inNashville will study cardiac stem cells whose biological properties are poorlyunderstood and investigate how disease affects their usefulness for therapeuticapplications.
- Drs. Mark Krasnow and Irving Weissman of Stanford Universitywill focus on identifying and characterizing progenitor cells involved inhealthy lung and blood development that ultimately may be used in addressingdisease or injured states.
- Dr. Irwin Bernstein of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer ResearchCenter and Dr. Edward Morrisey of the University of Pennsylvania inPhiladelphia will endeavor to determine how certain signaling pathways affectcardiac and blood-forming cell development and cardiac regeneration and repair.The team will also study whether these pathways may be harnessed for therapeuticapplications.
- Dr. Jay Schneider of the University of Texas SouthwestMedical Center in Dallas and Dr. David Scadden of the Massachusetts GeneralHospital in Boston will seek to examine how the microenvironment within heart,lung, and bone marrow controls progenitor cell fate and study progenitor celltypes in the cardiac and pulmonary contexts.
- Dr. George Daley of the Children's Hospital in Boston andDr. Kenneth Chien of Massachusetts General Hospital hope to advanceregenerative therapy of cardiac and blood disorders by developing iPSC modelsof human disease technology.
The consortium's administrative coordinating center will beled by Dr. Michael Terrin at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. Thecenter will administer funds to support cores, pilot studies, and ancillary andcollaborative studies. The consortium will be presented at NIH's upcomingInternational Symposium on Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Oct. 14-15 atNIH's campus in Bethesda, Md.