Since the completion of the UCSC CIRM Shared Stem Cell Facility (SSCF), we have made great strides in building an interdisciplinary stem cell research program addressing fundamental issues in stem cell biology – the genomic, molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. Our contributions to stem cell research fall into two broad categories – (1) the basic biology governing stem cell identity, behavior, ability to self renew and contribute to development, and (2) the biology of multipotent stem cells committed to following specific developmental fate pathways. In this report we highlight the work of developmental biologists who are taking varied approaches to understand the mechanisms that govern specification and maintenance of stem cell identity , and to delineate the earliest steps towards forming an embryo. We also highlight investigators who study genetic, molecular and cellular factors that govern decisions of multipotent precursor cells to progress along specific cell fate pathways to form key tissues and organs, such as breast, muscle and the nervous, hematopoietic and immune systems. The research opportunities provided by the SSCF have allowed us to attract new stem cell faculty to campus, assisted the pursuit of stem cell-related research avenues by established faculty, and enabled significant progress in areas that are vital to furthering the field of regenerative medicine.
This progress has been possible due to two factors: the unique design of the SSCF, with separate areas for cell culture, analysis, microscopy and teaching, all maintained to provide state-of-the-art equipment in clean, safe, highly functional workspaces; and the exceptional full-time staff that have been hired. Their combined skills, experience, knowledge, and dedication ensure that each core within the facility is operating efficiently, optimally and in compliance with all regulatory requirements. With the facility and staff now established, we are turning our attention to the next set of priorities, which include organizing user group meetings, training workshops, classes, and seminars; writing and submitting equipment grant proposals; and moving towards long-term financial stability through judicious implementation of a recharge system and other mechanisms. We have met or exceeded many of our original goals. We have brought new faculty to UCSC whose primary research focus is on stem cells, we have involved the existing faculty in stem cell research and we are training a new generation of stem cell biologists through our teaching and training efforts. In the past year, the facility also purchased 96% of our goods and services from California suppliers, exceeding the CIRM target level of 50%. In sum, with our new facility, UCSC has become one of the California Institutions making stem cell-based therapies a reality.