Boston Medical Center, Boston University Receive $2.7 Million Grant

The five-year gift will be used to create a stem cell repository.

The Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) at Boston University and Boston Medical Center has been awarded a grant to establish a first-of-its-kind stem cell repository that researchers from across the country can access for free. Funded through a five-year, $2.7 million federal grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the free repository will help researchers develop treatments—through stem cell research—for diseases that affect the lungs.

“This grant will support the widest possible sharing of our cells with the national research community and should provide the most rapid possible path for a national collaboration to develop new disease treatments using this state-of-the-art technology,” said Darrell Kotton, MD, director of the CReM who will serve as the co-Principal Investigator of this project. “We feel strongly about the power of collaboration, and that through our center’s ‘open source biology’ philosophy, we can advance science to heal the world. This grant will help us do just that.”

For diseases that affect the lungs, such as emphysema, cystic fibrosis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and pulmonary fibrosis, there are few therapeutic options available. In part, this is because there’s limited access to human lung cells for biomedical research.

Fortunately, CReM has pioneered “Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells,” which, according to BMC reps, “self-renew indefinitely as undifferentiated cells that become specific adult cell types.” These cells create “an inexhaustible source of disease or patient-specific stem cells.” Now, researchers can use these cells to work on potential new treatments for a variety of lung diseases—yet continue to stay within the embryonic stem cell research restrictions. According to CReM’s website, the cells are regenerated from donated blood:

Induced pluripotent stem cells are derived from the donated skin or blood cells of adults and, with the reactivation of four genes, are reprogrammed back to an embryonic stem cell-like state. Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells can be differentiated toward any cell type in the body, but they do not require the use of embryos. Since this discovery four years ago, our knowledge about iPS cells has exponentially expanded.

The Repository will provide access to these stem cells from patients with both normal and diseased lungs. According to BMC, the cells will be expanded, frozen, and shipped to investigators around the country who request them for use in their own labs. The grant money will also be used to provide training courses on how to generate and maintain the stem cells as well as turn them into adult lung cells.