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GRANTS AND RESEARCH
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UCI stem cell researchers secure $9.35 million in grants

The money will fund programs examining treatments for Huntington’s disease, blindness and brain injury.

BY CAITLIN ADAMSPublished: October 26, 2010 07:44 AM

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine – or CIRM – is awarding four UC Irvine scientists funding to continue researching stem cell treatments for several debilitating ailments.

The grants were awarded to Drs. Henry Klassen, Leslie M. Thompson, Brian Cummings and Aileen Anderson for their early stage translational stem cell research. All four are members of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UCI. The latest awards bring the total CIRM funding to nearly $72 million.

“I am delighted that CIRM has made these awards to my colleagues,” said Peter Donovan, director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. “It speaks to the breadth of outstanding stem cell research at UC Irvine. The studies they will carry out on eye diseases, Huntington’s and traumatic brain injury could have wider implications for the use of stem cells to treat a variety of human diseases, disorders and injuries, and could have a major impact.”

Klassen, an assistant professor of ophthalmology, will use his $3.85 million grant to continue studying a stem cell treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited form of blindness. Klassen plans to focus on establishing a standardized method for creating photoreceptor progenitor stem cells. Grant reviewers at CIRM gave Klassen’s proposal the highest scientific score among all applications for early translational grants.

Thompson – a professor of psychiatry and human behavior, and neurobiology and behavior – received a grant of $3.8 million. She plans to use it in developing a technique to use stem cells to support areas of the brain susceptible to Huntington’s disease, an inherited, incurable and fatal neurodegenerative disorder.

With their grant of $1.7 million, Cummings and Anderson – both associate professors of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and anatomy and neurobiology – will research stem cell applications to treat traumatic brain injury, including direct introduction of stem cells at the damaged site, with the theory that they will grow into neurons to replace damaged or dead cells.

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