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$3.5 Million Awarded to UB Biochemist to Facilitate Regional Stem Cell Research

By Lois Baker

Release Date: May 27, 2010

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Richard Gronostajski is principal investigator for a $3.5 million grant to establish a regional stem cell analysis center.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A University at Buffalo biochemist in UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and his colleagues have received $3.5 million from the Empire State Stem Cell Board to establish a Western New York Stem Cell Culture and Analysis Center.

Richard Gronostajski, PhD, professor in UB's Department of Biochemistry in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is principal investigator on the grant.

The funds will be used to promote and facilitate research in the use of mouse and human embryonic, adult, induced pluripotent and cancer stem cells. Pluripotent cells have the ability to become nearly any type of cell in the body.

"All these types of stem cells have tremendous potential for our understanding and treatment of human diseases, including diabetes, cancers, spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease, cardiomyopathies, neurodegenerative diseases and the damage or degeneration of various organs due to aging or injury," says Gronostajski.

The center will provide highly specialized and easy-to-use resources to obtain, culture, expand and store stem cells, and to generate new stem cells by genetic reprogramming of somatic cells -- cells that form the body of an organism.

Center researchers also will analyze the growth, differentiation and tumor inducing characteristics of stem cells to determine their ability to repopulate and heal organs in mice and other animals, and to determine the genes and regulatory regions responsible for the growth and differentiated characteristics of stem cells and their progeny.

"We need specialized facilities for these functions in order to speed and maximize research efforts by scientists currently using stem cells, and to create an easy access point for new investigators to begin to use stem cells in their research," says Gronostajski.

"Such a center will be used by scientists in New York State and from surrounding regions to conduct important stem cell studies."

The center will be composed of four core facilities: a stem cell culture, banking and training facility; an induced pluripotent stem cell generation facility; a stem cell engraftment facility; and a stem cell sequencing/epigenomics facility.

These cores will be led by a UB interdisciplinary team of Jian Feng, PhD, associate professor of physiology and biophysics; Michal Stachowiak, PhD, associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences and director of the Molecular and Structural Neurobiology and Gene Therapy Program; Emmanouhl Tzanakakis, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering; and Michael Buck, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry.

The award is part of $30.5 million in funding to support biomedical research infrastructure and stem cell research training throughout the state. Gronostajski's research was supported by the UB 2020 Interdisciplinary Research Development Fund.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.