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UCI researcher receives $4.8M state medical grant

Thomas Lane’s project will seek a new multiple sclerosis treatment

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: May 29, 2012 11:05 AM

UC Irvine immunologist Thomas Lane has been selected by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to receive $4.8 million in state grants. The funding will be used finance a new line of neural stem cells aimed at treating multiple sclerosis.

"I am delighted that CIRM has chosen to support our efforts to advance a novel stem cell-based therapy for multiple sclerosis," said Peter Donovan, director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center.

The grant award announced last week is one of 21 endowments distributed to 11 institutions statewide by the California Institute for CIRM governing board, amounting to $69 million. The various projects that received grants are all very important to the institute, with each one aimed at developing cell-based treatments, candidate drugs or therapies for different diseases.

"Our preliminary data are very promising and suggest that this goal is possible," said Lane, a Chancellor's Fellow and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and director of the UCI MS Research Center. "Research efforts will concentrate on refining techniques for production and rigorous quality control of transplantable cells generated from high-quality human pluripotent stem cell lines, leading to the development of the most therapeutically beneficial cell type for eventual use in patients with MS."

The latest award brings the total amount of CIRM grant funding for UCI to $76.65 million. Lane’s grant will support early-stage translation research, advancing work on multiple sclerosis treatment.

A neurological condition, MS is caused by the loss of myelin tissue, a fatty insulation that protects nerve cells. There is no known cure, and current treatments are often unable to prevent  neurological disability. Current therapies are aimed at avoiding attacks or slowing the onset of serious disability, when possible.

An estimated 400,000 people live with MS in the U.S. today, as many as 160 of them in California, with the economic, social and medical costs associated with the disease ranging in the billions of dollars.

Lane’s CIRM-funded project aims to develop a stem cell treatment to stop ongoing myelin loss and stimulate the growth of new myelin tissue, which will heal damaged nerves. Once the project has progressed into the testing phase, Lane with collaborate with Australian colleague and MS researcher Claude Bernard at the Monash University in Melbourne, who will aid in validating the cell line’s effectiveness.

Bernard will receive supplemental funding of $1.8 million through Australia’s National Health & Medical Research Council as part of CIRM’s collaborative funding program.

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