September 2012

Section 1

Takes logo

Peter's posits

Peter Donovan in science wear

In what has become an annual tradition, stem cell research scientists, advocates and supporters around the world come together during the first week of October to raise awareness and understanding of stem cells and the range of potential applications to possibly treat disease and injury. During this week, the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center also takes part. We will host three events in Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute – a High School Open House on Oct. 1, a Staff and Faculty Open House on Oct. 2, and a Stem Cell Awareness Day Symposium on Oct. 3.  The symposium will feature a distinguished list of top researchers who will present new findings and other timely information related to stem cell research. If you would like to attend these events or volunteer, please visit or e-mail Get the inside story on stem cells from the UC Irvine scientists who are making history with these biological building blocks. It’s a story of human potential that you’ll want to share with others. We hope to see you there.

– Peter Donovan, director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center

clinical trial news

Aileen Andersen and Brian Cummings smiling

Feeling Returns for Paralyzed Patients in Stem Cell Trial – Two of three patients participating the world’s first clinical trial for chronic spinal cord injury reported feeling increased sensation in previously paralyzed areas after receiving injections of neural stem cells. Six months after therapy, these patients experienced sensations of touch and heat between their chest and belly button—areas previously without any sensation. Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center scientists, Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings (pictured), in collaboration with StemCells, Inc., conducted the key studies for this neural stem cell therapy, which is being tested in a Swiss hospital. Read more about this promising news here.

Funding News

Henry Klassen posing and smiling

$57.3 Million in CIRM Awards Fund Progress – Efforts at the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center to begin human clinical trials using stem cells to treat cervical spinal cord injury, retinitis pigmentosa and Alzheimer’s disease received a $57.3 million boost from the state’s stem cell research funding agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. UC Irvine researchers will share in three CIRM Disease Team Therapy Development Awards – Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings and StemCells, Inc. received a $20 million commitment to fund the collection of data necessary to establish human clinical trials in the U.S. for cervical spinal cord injury. Frank LaFerla and Mathew Blurton-Jones and StemCells, Inc., reaped another $20 million to advance research using human neural stem cells to improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease. And Henry Klassen (pictured) and colleagues at UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis and Cedars-Sinai garnered $17.3 million to cultivate therapeutically potent retinal progenitor stem cells to treat the blinding effects of retinitis pigmentosa. Read more about these awards here and here.

Research Profile

Weian Zhao smiling

Will This Man Change the World? – Weian Zhao, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences and member of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, has been recognized by MIT’s Technology Review as a TR35 honoree for 2012.  Each year since 1999, the TR35 list has identified the 35 innovators under age 35 who have the greatest potential to transform the world. Their work spans biotechnology, computer and electronics hardware and software, energy, the Web, and nanotechnology, among other emerging fields. Previous selectees include founders of Tesla Motorcars, Google and Facebook. Zhao, 32, (pictured) was honored for his breakthrough work in which his laboratory creates sensors that are attached to stem cells, allowing researchers to track how these cells migrate through living tissue. Zhao’s stem cell sensor technology may one day lead to more effective diagnostics and safer drug delivery systems for treatments such as cancer chemotherapies. He is the second Anteater scientist to earn TR35 kudos. Read more here.  Zhao was also featured in the Daily Pilot newspaper.

More News & Views

  • Mice Regain Memory – Human neural stem cells restored memory in mice with brain symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease, according to Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Center researchers, which opens the door to an eventual treatment. Over the past 12 to 18 months, scientists including Frank LaFerla, who is also director of UCI MIND, and Matthew Blurton-Jones worked on a treatment involving injection of human neural stem cells into the brains of two kinds of mouse “models” — those bred to model the effects of Alzheimer’s, and those bred to model the loss of neurons in a part of the brain known as the hippocampus. The announcement, made at an Alzheimer’s science conference in Vancouver, involves the neural stem cells grown in the lab by StemCells, Inc. Read more here.
  • Huntington’s Disease in a Petri Dish – An international consortium of Huntington’s disease experts, including several from the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UCI, has generated a human model of the deadly inherited disorder directly from the skin cells of affected patients. The re-created neurons, which live in a petri dish, will help researchers better understand what disables and kills brain cells in people with HD and let them gauge the effects of potential drug therapies on cells that are otherwise locked deep in the brain. “Our discovery will enable us for the first time to test therapies on human Huntington’s disease neurons,” said Leslie Thompson, one of the world’s leading HD experts and a senior author of the study. Her stem cell research center colleagues Leslie Lock, Alvin King, Malcolm Casale, Sara Winokur, Gayani Batugedara, Marquis Vawter and Peter Donovan also contributed to the study. Read more here.
  • Thompson Becomes Co-Editor of HD Journal – Leslie Thompson has been named founding co-editor in chief, with Blair Leavitt of the University of British Columbia, of the first academic journal dedicated to Huntington’s disease. The quarterly Journal of Huntington's Disease features original research in basic science, translational research and clinical studies. Thompson, professor of psychiatry & human behavior and neurobiology & behavior, is a pioneer in the exploration of stem cell-based treatments for HD. “This is an exciting opportunity,” she said. "There’s enough momentum in the field to have a dedicated journal, and it'll be a very comprehensive resource for the HD community.” Thompson has been a pioneer in the exploration of stem cell-based HD treatments. Read more here.

handy links

Learn more about stem cell basics here.
Learn more about stem cell research here.
Learn more about patient groups that support stem cell research and how you can get involved here.
Learn more about stem cell research in California here.

empty image
UCI Stem Cell Research Center Logo
Image asking to donate today

coming events

Monday, Oct. 1
Stem Cell Awareness Week
Open House for K-12 Educators
4 p.m.
Sue & Bill Gross Hall
subject: Open House

Tuesday, Oct. 2
Stem Cell Awareness Week
Open house for UC Irvine students, faculty and staff
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sue & Bill Gross Hall
subject: Open House

Wednesday, Oct. 3
Stem Cell Awareness Day Celebration
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
4th floor, Sue & Bill Gross Hall
subject: Symposium

Interview Series cover image

Click to Unsubscribe.