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National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
9:30 a.m. ET

Joyce McDonald
(301) 435-0888

New Center for Preparation and Distribution of Adult Stem Cells

Bethesda, MD — The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced today the award of a grant to Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to establish a center for the preparation, quality testing, and distribution of adult stem cells.

The new center (established with a five-year grant totaling $4.3 million) will prepare and distribute a continuous supply of marrow stromal cells (MSCs) derived from adult human and rat bone marrow, respectively, using standardized protocols. Adult MSCs, also known as mesenchymal stem cells, are multipotential, non-hematopoietic stem cells that appear to have the capacity to differentiate into many different cell types, including bone, cartilage, neurons, and fat. Previous research has shown that when injected into animals whose bone marrow function has been altered, progeny of the MSCs populate several tissues, including bone, cartilage, lung, skin, liver, and brain.

Adult MSCs may be useful for cellular therapies for a number of diseases as well as for understanding basic features of stem cell biology, but these areas of research have been inhibited by the lack of standard MSC preparations that can be compared by different laboratories. To solve this problem, the Tulane center will prepare MSCs by the best current procedures using bone marrow collected on-site and will distribute the cells worldwide. The center also will derive MSCs from bone marrow preparations provided by individual laboratories and will return the cells to those laboratories for use in individual research programs.

"While the potential for adult stem cell research is great, the technical requirements and the expense of producing high-quality cells limit the capacity of investigators to proceed with their research," said Dr. Judith Vaitukaitis, Director of NCRR. "This center, with the emphasis on quality control and standardized methods, will move this promising research forward."

Adult stem cells have attracted increasing attention from researchers because they are readily isolated from individuals and can be expanded in culture and genetically engineered. The features of MSCs suggest that they may have many applications for cell and gene therapy.

Currently, donated organs and tissues can sometimes be used to replace ailing or damaged tissue, but the need for transplantable tissues and organs far outweighs the available supply. Adult MSCs, induced to differentiate into specific tissues either in vitro or in vivo, offer the possibility of a renewable resource of replacement cells to help treat diseases such as Parkinson's, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, and arthritis, as well as injuries to the spinal cord, heart and lung, among others. The availability of standardized preparations of both human and rat MSCs will allow scientists to better understand the capabilities of these cells for potential therapeutic uses in a number of different experimental systems.

The center has begun setting up operations and expects to announce its opening date shortly. Researchers may contact the center at cgt@tulane.edu.

NCRR is part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. NCRR is the nation's leading federal sponsor of resources that enable advances in many areas of biomedical research. NCRR support provides the scientific research community with access to a diverse array of biomedical research technologies, instrumentation, specialized basic and clinical research facilities, animal models, genetic stocks, and such biomaterials as cell lines, tissues, and organs.

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