News Release

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NHLBI Awards $170 Million to Fund Stem Cell Research

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded $170 million to be paid over seven years to 18 teams of research scientists to develop the high-potential field of stem and progenitor cell tools and therapies.

The awards create the NHLBI Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium, which will bring together researchers from the heart, lung, blood, and technology research fields. A seven-year project, the consortium assembles nine research hubs with multidisciplinary teams of principal investigators and an administrative coordinating center to focus on progenitor cell biology.

While a stem cell can renew itself indefinitely or differentiate, a progenitor cell can only divide a limited number of times and is often more limited than a stem cell in the kinds of cells it can become. Given the potential of these cells for clinical applications, the goals of the consortium are to identify and characterize progenitor cell lines, direct the differentiation of stem and progenitor cells to desired cell fates, and develop new clinical strategies to address the unique challenges presented by the transplantation of these cells.

"NHLBI is committed to stimulating stem cell research that will lead to the development of regenerative therapies for the treatment of heart, lung, and blood diseases," said NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D. "Important gaps remain in our understanding of stem and progenitor cells, and this consortium holds great promise to expand our knowledge and uncover therapeutic applications of great public impact."

A virtual "Who's Who" of stem and progenitor cell research, the consortium's hubs — along with their participating institutions, principal investigators, and missions — include:

  • University of Wisconsin, Madison (Dr. James Thomson, Ph.D.) and University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Dr. Daniel Garry, M.D., Ph.D.) expect to provide a basic understanding of the hierarchy of cardiovascular precursor cells — stem cells that have developed to the stage where they are committed to forming a particular kind of blood cell. They will also research the molecular events leading to the formation of blood-forming cells and stem cells as a prerequisite to therapeutic applications.
  • Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (Dr. Mortimer Poncz, M.D.) and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle (Dr. Beverly Torok-Storb, Ph.D.) will study the specialization of blood-forming cell lines, develop molecular interventions that will drive the formation of blood cells toward desired lines, and establish new, functional platelets that potentially may be used for the targeted delivery of bioactive proteins.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (Dr. Alan Friedman, M.D.) and Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif. (Dr. John Cooke, M.D., Ph.D.) will focus on the safe reprogramming and differentiation of adult cells to blood-forming cell lines for eventual application to blood or vascular disorders.
  • Stanford University (Dr. Robert Robbins, M.D.) and J. David Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco (Dr. Deepak Srivastava, M.D.) plan to produce usable and reliable induced pluripotent stem cells — iPSCs, artificially derived stem cells can give rise to any fetal or adult cell type — that can be used for cell therapy in the heart.
  • Vanderbilt University, Nashnille (Dr. Antonis Hatzopoulos, Ph.D.) will study cardiac stem cells whose biological properties are poorly understood, and investigate how disease affects their usefulness for therapeutic applications.
  • Stanford University (Drs. Mark Krasnow, M.D., Ph.D. and Irving Weissman, M.D.) will focus on identifying and characterizing progenitor cells involved in healthy lung and blood development that ultimately may be used in addressing disease or injured states.
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Dr. Irwin Bernstein, M.D.) and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Dr. Edward Morrisey, Ph.D.) endeavor to determine how certain signaling pathways — ordered sequences of biochemical reactions inside cells — affect cardiac and blood-forming cell development and cardiac regeneration and repair. The team will also study whether these pathways may be harnessed for therapeutic applications.
  • University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, Dallas (Dr. Jay Schneider, M.D., Ph.D.) and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (Dr. David Scadden, M.D.) seek to examine how the microenvironment within heart, lung, and bone marrow controls progenitor cell fate, and study progenitor cell types in the cardiac and pulmonary contexts.
  • Children's Hospital, Boston (Dr. George Daley, M.D., Ph.D.) and Massachusetts General Hospital (Dr. Kenneth Chien, M.D., Ph.D.) hope to advance regenerative therapy of cardiac and blood disorders by developing iPSC models of human disease technology.

The consortium's administrative coordinating center will be led by Dr. Michael Terrin, M.D. at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The center will administer funds to support cores, pilot studies, and ancillary and collaborative studies. The consortium will be presented at NIH's upcoming International Symposium on Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Oct. 14-15 at NIH's campus in Bethesda, Md.

To arrange an interview with an NHLBI spokesperson, please contact the NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236 or email

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