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University of Washington wins stem cell research grant

The University of Washington has been awarded USD 10m by the US federal government for a five-year programme intended to advance basic research on human embryonic stem cells

The University of Washington has been awarded USD 10m by the US federal government for a five-year programme intended to advance basic research on human embryonic stem cells.

The grant, which was awarded by the US National Institutes of Health (NiH), restricts the use of the award for research only on the 21 human embryonic stem cell lines approved for scientific study by President Bush back in 2001.

Embryonic stem cells can develop into brain, heart, bone, blood or any other kind of cell. Such pluripotent forms of stem cells can be used to repair damaged tissue or grow new structures.

The September 2007 issue of Nature Biotechnology reported on the research ongoing at the university, which is investigating the regeneration of damaged hearts in rats using embryonic stem cells.

The team collaborates with the US-headquartered biotechnology firm, Geron, in this area. In the laboratory, approximately 10 per cent of damaged heart muscle was restored by stem cells, according to the Nature report.

The grant will help the university to fund a human embryonic stem cell laboratory and expand four research projects aimed at deciphering how stem cells are able to renew and differentiate. The research will focus on heart and retinal nerve stem cells.

The University of Washington programme is part of a national project launched in 2003 and coordinated by the NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The project is investigating the basic molecular and genetic questions of human embryonic stem cells.

30th September 2008

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