|Laura Grabel, the
Fisk Professor of Natural Sciences and professor of biology, received
$878,348 for her study on embryonic stem cells.
Professor Awarded Grant, Will Co-Direct State Stem Cell Facility
Wesleyan and one of its researchers were major
beneficiaries of the State of Connecticut’s initial round of nearly $20
million in grants to fund non-federally-sanctioned stem cell research.
The awarding of the grants was announced on November 22 in Hartford.
Wesleyan was a co-recipient with the University of Connecticut of $2.5
million dedicated for the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility, which
will be located in Farmington. Laura Grabel, the Fisk Professor of Natural
Sciences and professor of biology, also received $878,348 for her study
titled “Directing Production and Functional Integration of Embryonic Stem
Cell-Derived Neural Stem Cells.”
Grabel will also be co-director of the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core
Facility with Ren-He Xu, associate professor and director of the human
embryonic stem cell laboratory at the University of Connecticut Health
“The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility will be a world class facility
that will be a tremendous benefit to the state’s residents as well as our
faculty and students,” Grabel says. “It lets us maximize the available
resources and gives researchers a dedicated space to work with the
unapproved stem cell lines.”
The stipulation regarding unapproved stem cell lines is extremely important
to stem cell researchers because of the federal guidelines. It is not
illegal to work with these non-approved stem cell lines; in fact,
researchers in private industry have been doing so for several years.
However, researchers cannot use facilities or resources that have been paid
for by federal funds for approved stem cell lines in conjunction with
research on non-approved lines.
“Most of the researchers involved have received federal funding for their
work on approved stem cell lines,” says Grabel, who has received NIH funding
for her work with these lines. “To partition a lab and replicate much of the
materials and resources that are dedicated to federally-funded work would be
tremendously wasteful and extremely impractical. This facility will
eliminate any chance of overlap.”
A similar facility will also be created at Yale with an identical $2.5
million state grant.
Grabel adds that use of these facilities will not be limited to the three
universities who are being funded by the state’s stem cell initiative –
Wesleyan, Yale and UConn.
“Students from all the universities and colleges in the state will have the
opportunity to be trained there,” she says. “That’s another great advantage
of this facility. We’ll be training a whole new generation of stem cell
Grabel’s work at the facility will be based on the individual grant she
received from the state. Her research focuses on how to improve the effect
of stem cells can be implanted in the brain to replace damaged neurons.
“In some cases the stem cells become healthy neurons and reverse the
damage,” she says. “But this doesn’t happen every time. Sometimes nothing is
reversed. So we’ll be looking at why this occurs and how we might improve
the chances of a positive outcome.”
When Grabel says “we” she is referring to her co-investigators, Janice
Naegele, chair and professor of biology, professor of neuroscience, and
Gloster Aaron, assistant professor of biology.
“We have some fantastic researchers here, and our capabilities and interests
complement each other quite well,” Grabel says. “It’s really the strength of
our research abilities that the state responded to by making us a partner in
Parts of the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility in Farmington are
already up and running. The rest should be fully operational in early 2007.
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations.