Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 3 – 2006

Helen Blau, Microbiology and Immunology
Curtis Frank, Chemical Engineering

Stem cells have great promise as novel therapeutics, however, there are challenges that remain before they can be usefully employed. Stem cells in tissues such as blood, skin, and muscle are capable of generating large numbers of other stem cells (self-renewal) inside the body. In response to injury, these cells increase in number, replace damaged cells, and regenerate the tissue. A goal of stem cell biology is to enlist this property to obtain the large numbers of stem cells needed for cell based therapies. However, this potential for self-renewal is lost as soon as the cells are grown in tissue culture in the laboratory, as the cells immediately specialize, losing their stem cell properties. In this grant, we propose to combine the expertise of stem cell biologists (the Blau lab) with those of chemical engineers (the Frank lab) to test in a systematic way, the potential of molecules found adjacent to muscle stem cells to maintain ‘stemness’ in culture. The proposed experiments will increase our understanding of stem cell biology and may enable therapeutic applications of these potent cells.