The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine will launch a new center that will focus on understanding tissue regeneration and pioneering future developments in stem cell biology as a means to repair diseased organs and tissues.
The center will partner with colleges and departments across the University of Illinois System.
Researchers in the new center will investigate the molecular signals that drive stem cells to mature into different cell types, such as blood, heart and blood vessel cells. The center will also study the epigenetic regulation of stem cells; determine the best approaches to transplant engineered cells, tissues and organs; and look for ways to efficiently produce the regenerative cells needed for novel treatments.
"The center will use a team-oriented multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates experts in biochemistry, biophysics, bioengineering and the clinical sciences to investigate stem cell biology and tissue regeneration," says Asrar Malik, the Schweppe Family Distinguished Professor and head of pharmacology, who is guiding the effort. A search is underway to recruit a director and additional faculty members, he said.
The current program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine already includes seven faculty members, most within the department of pharmacology, who together have more than $10 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health. Malik said that the "intent in the next few years will be to carry out additional recruitments with other departments, to build from this interdisciplinary foundation and capitalize on our strengths."
Three new faculty members have joined the center in the last two years. Owen Tamplin studies stem cells in zebrafish; Konstandin Pajcini investigates the role of stem cells in the development of leukemia; and Jae-Won Shin engineers stem cells and tissues with an eye towards transplantation.
This will be the only dedicated stem cell and regenerative medicine center in Chicago with a focus on basic biology and translational science, and will affirm UIC's leadership role in these fields, and help attract additional talent to our team, said Malik.
The opening of the center will be commemorated with a June 12 symposium on stem cell and regenerative medicine from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Faculty Alumni Lounge, UIC College of Medicine West building, 1853 W. Polk Street.
- Robin Ali, professor of human molecular genetics at University College London's Institute of Ophthalmology, who studies gene and cell-based therapy for the treatment of retinal degeneration.
- Nancy Speck, professor and chair of cell and developmental biology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, whose contributions to the understanding of the development of blood cells have led to insights into leukemia.
- Dr. Shahin Rafii, director of the Ansary Stem Cell Institute at Weill Cornell School of Medicine, who is identifying the molecular and cellular pathways involved in organ regeneration and tumor growth.
- Dr. Joseph Wu, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute at the Stanford School of Medicine, who has used personalized induced pluripotent stem cells to study molecular signals involved in the development of heart disease.