Stem cell research highlights 2010

For the final post of 2010, here are some stem cell highlights from the past year (in no particular order).

  • Three trials based on embryonic stem cells were approved by the FDA: two for forms of vision loss (Stargardt’s and macular degeneration) and one for spinal cord injury. (Update on 1/3/11: only two trials received FDA approval in 2010. The macular degeneration trial received approval today.)
  • The man who has come to be known as the Berlin patient is shown to be free of HIV infection after a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a mutation that produces an immune system that is resistant to the virus (our blog entry). This mutation is the basis for two CIRM disease teams: one at UCLA and one at City of Hope.
  • A federal judge temporarily halted federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Funding was quickly restored but the final ruling in the case is still unknown (our blog entry). (I guess this one is more of a lowlight that a highlight.)
  • Two groups showed that adult cells can be reprogrammed to a different cell type without first passing through an embryonic-like state. CIRM grantee Deepak Srivastava, who directly converted mouse fibroblasts into heart muscle cells, thinks this discovery could one day lead to drugs that directly convert tissue types within the body.
  • The first functioning organ – in this case a miniscule liver – was grown from embryonic stem cells (our blog entry).
  • Five of the CIRM-funded Major Facilities opened their doors (UC Davis, UC, Irvine, USC, Stanford, and UCLA). The $271 million provided by CIRM leveraged more than 800 million in private and institutional funding. The construction of those buildings has been estimated to create 13,000 job years of employment and $100 million in tax revenue for the state.
  • A Harris Interactive/Healthday poll found widespread support for embryonic stem cell research, with 73% saying that the research should be allowed.
  • Two CIRM grantees were honored with major awards. Joanna Wysocka of Stanford University was awarded the Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the International Society for Stem Cell Research and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and the Gladstone Institute for Cardiovascular Disease/UCSF won the prestigious Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology.
  • Derrick Rossi of Harvard University developed a new way of reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like iPS cells (our blog entry). The technique avoids the use of integrating virus and is significantly more efficient than previous methods.
  • Costa Rica shut down an unregulated stem cell tourism clinic to protect patients from expensive unproven procedures (our blog entry). Aware of the growing risk of stem cell tourism, the ISSCR unveiled a new web site to help people who are considering traveling to receive stem cell therapies. 

Feel free to add your own highlights.

We’ll be back for an action-packed 2011!