Wellcome Trust, MRC kick off $20 million iPS initiative

Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiative to generate stem cell lines for research into effects of genetic variation on health, disease

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LONDON—The Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council(MRC) have announced the beginning of a £12.75 million (approximately $20.4million) initiative to create a collection of high-quality adult stem cells,specifically induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The undertaking will providea knowledge base for the use of iPS cells in the study of the effects geneshave on health and disease, in addition to being a first step toward thedevelopment of a new iPS cell bank. The project, known as the Human InducedPluripotent Stem Cell Initiative, will generate iPS cells from healthyvolunteers and patient groups, and will be led by King's College London and theWellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
"The Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiativebrings together world-leading expertise in clinical genetics, stem cell biologyand genomic technologies. We believe that this research will drive forward thetranslation of basic research into improved diagnosis and treatment ofdisease," Prof. Fiona Watt of King's College London said in a press release."At King's, we also hope this will enable us to open a 'Stem Cell Hotel',providing a platform for collaborative experiments between clinician scientistswith in-depth knowledge of specific diseases and cell biologists who have thetools to obtain quantitative readouts of cell behavior."
iPS are generated from taking regular adult cells andreprogramming them into stem cells, essentially undoing the differentiationthat all stem cells undergo. Reverting them to stem cells allows them to onceagain have the potential to differentiate into a variety of different celltypes. The cell collection that will result from this initiative will be themost comprehensive resource of its kind in the United Kingdom for investigatingthe effects of genetic variation on cell behavior and diseases.
"The Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiativewill be an important resource that will help researchers around the worldunderstand the links between genetic variation, cell behavior and disease, andspeed up the translation of this research into improved diagnosis and treatmentof disease," said Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust."The field of induced pluripotent stem cell research was made possiblethanks to the seminal discoveries of Sir John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, whowere last month awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology for theirwork. This is a field in which the U.K. remains at the cutting-edge. Ourinvestment in this new initiative should further strengthen the U.K.'s positionand lead to patient benefit."
Investigators from the Sanger Institute will endeavor togenerate more than 1,000 iPS cell lines, from both healthy subjects and thosewith diseases. The project will also include collaborations with other researchbodies such as the University of Cambridge, University of Dundee, EuropeanBioinformatics Institute and University College London. 
"Induced pluripotent stem cells hold enormous potentialto help us understand and treat human disease, but currently the application ofiPS cell technology is limited by gaps in our knowledge regarding theirbiological properties and how we can best manipulate them to accurately modelhuman disease," said Prof. Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC. "Byinvesting in a U.K.-wide initiative in iPS cell technology, we hope to propelUK researchers to the forefront of this rapidly evolving field and provide aninvaluable stock of high-quality cell lines for use by academia and industryalike."
SOURCE: Wellcome Trust press release

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