Funding Type: 
SEED Grant
Grant Number: 
ICOC Funds Committed: 
Public Abstract: 

Stem cell therapy can be useful for treating various diseases, such as spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. However, the use of human embryos raises ethical as well as supply issues. There is also a major possibility of undesirable rejection of the transplanted stem cells administered to patients who have these diseases. While some recent advances offer promising results, such techniques currently have some critical flaws, hence new innovative approaches are needed to resolve the encountered or anticipated problems. The proposed research contains an effort to lay the ground work for resolving some of the major hurdles using nanotechnology and physical science approaches.

To expedite therapeutic applications of stem cells, better understanding of the many factors which influence stem cell behavior, and new methods to cause differentiation of stem cells need to be developed. While there have been significant research investigations of stem cell behavior using cell biology approaches, there have been few studies to explore new ways to direct the fates of stem cells using physical science methods. Therefore, in this proposal of interdisciplinary research, we will introduce forefront nanotechnology to engineer desirable and beneficial changes in the behavior of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). With recent nanotech advances, nanoscale manipulations (i.e., 1/80,000 the width of a human hair) of very small particles, materials, molecules are possible, inside the cells as well as inside the site where genes are located, the nucleus. Nanotechnology has not yet been seriously applied to stem cell science to advance clinical therapies. The significance of the proposed research lies in the possible control of differentiation pathways (e.g. stem cell to nerve cell), specifically at the level of the nucleus, in order to create therapeutically useful and ethically acceptable stem cells.

The specific aims are thus directed toward the demonstration that bioengineered manipulations of stem cells using nanotechnology will accomplish what has not been previously possible with traditional laboratory methods. To validate the nanotech approach, experiments for controlled intracellular and intranuclear stem cell manipulations will be applied, and their effects on stem cell differentiation into a variety of mature cell types (pluripotency), will be investigated. Advances in stem cell manipulations using nanotechnology will provide significant and powerful ways to accelerate realistic therapeutic applications of stem cells.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

For some patients with diseases, such as spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, stem cell therapy offers a great hope for efficient therapeutic treatment of the patients. To expedite therapeutic applications of stem cells, an understanding of the key parameters which influence the stem cell behavior, and efficient technical means to induce differentiation into well-defined lineages are needed. While there have been significant worldwide research efforts for studies of stem cell behavior via biological approaches, with some recent advances offering promising approaches for future stem cell therapeutics, there has been little effort to explore new avenues of possible stem cell controls using physical science technology approaches. The proposed research contains an effort, using nanotechnology and associated innovative approaches, to lay the ground work for resolving some of the major hurdles or anticipated problems in the practical medical application of the current stem cell research advances.

The successful outcome of the proposed research will benefit many California residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease. The estimated cost of healthcare in California related to the Alzheimer’s type disease alone is several hundred million dollars every year. There are nearly 1.5 million California residents diagnosed with diabetes with additional a few million people at risk. There is tremendous financial impact on California with the introduction of stem cell therapy for cure of these diseases. The proposed research on nanoscale stem cell manipulations is also substantially dependent on utilization of nanotechnology and materials, devices, processes being employed for semiconductor industries. The State of California is very strong in semiconductor industry including many silicon valley based high-tech companies. The State is also one of the significant leaders in the forefront biotechnology. The success of the proposed stem cell manipulation and control techniques, and their eventual commercialization for stem cell therapeutics, can foster expansion of the business scopes and revenues for some of the biotech as well as nanotech companies in California, thus creating jobs and enabling the State of California to become a world leader in stem cell science, technology, and medical applications. Such blossoming technical and medical advances will have profound positive effects on the vision of young scientists in California. This will also help many of the State’s large medical institutes to become world leaders in their respective therapeutic treatments of various diseases.