The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Shared Research and Teaching Laboratory is now in its 2nd year of operation. Our goal is to support stem cell research in Northern California. We are particularly focused on enabling scientists at our institution and our colleagues in the Bridges programs at Humboldt State University, San Francisco State University, Berkeley City College and City College of San Francisco.
With regard to the Shared Research portion of the program, we offer our users 3 state-of-the-art tissue culture rooms that are fully equipped for growing and studying various types of human stem cells including those derived from embryos. Our major instrumentation includes highly power microscopes, of which some take movies, that allow us to do many types of imaging studies including applications that use live cells. We also provide access to equipment that researchers use to analyze and sort stem cells and their descendents based on their unique fingerprints.
Currently our research laboratory has 37 users who work in all the major areas of stem cell research. These include studying the basic biology of human embryonic stem cells and what they can teach us about the initial steps of human development. Other well-represented research interests include regenerative therapies with neural, pancreatic, liver and cancer stem cell applications.
Dr. Linda Guidice is the Director of the program. She is Chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. She is a renowned reproductive biologist/endocrinologist and IVF practitioner whose expertise includes human embryonic stem cell biology. Dr. Susan Fisher, member of the same department, is the Associate Program Director. Her expertise and that of her group includes methods for deriving, growing, characterizing and differentiating human embryonic stem cells. Mr. Nick Larocque oversees the day-to-day operations of the facility. He has nearly 10 years of experience working with human embryonic stem cells and is an expert in the methods that are used in their growth and analysis. The leadership team is ably assisted by a group of scientists who are stem cell biologists with various individual strengths including many decades of experience with the specialized approaches that are used in the regenerative medicine field. Finally, an Oversight Committee helps evaluate priorities and establish new directions.
With regard to the Teaching portion of the program, we offer several different kinds of learning experiences. Formal instruction consists of 5 full-day courses. Lectures, which are given by prominent members of the UCSF stem cell community, occupy the mornings. The topics that are covered include human embryonic development, stem cell derivation, and egg/sperm formation. A major focus is placed on translational aspects of regenerative therapies for numerous conditions including diabetes and Parkinson’s disease as well as applications in many types of cancer including those that involve the liver and blood cells.
The laboratory portion of the course occupies the afternoons. This is an intensive hands-on experience in which the students learn by directly interacting with program personnel. They begin with the methods that are used to propagate human embryonic stem cells in a research laboratory. This includes recognizing the appearance of the cells as they self-renew or when they begin to differentiate. They are also taught the techniques that are used to store human embryonic stem cells in a frozen state for future use. Thereafter, the focus is on analytical techniques for determining their developmental potential.
This year we gave four courses. Three were filled with UCSF trainees at all levels of the educational process and one was offered to students in the Humboldt State University Bridges program. These learning experiences were well received and the students gave them high marks. Therefore, we plan to include the same overall content in the courses that we teach next year, and we update as technology in this field advances.
We also have made a major commitment to teaching stem cell techniques to our users on an informal ongoing basis. We strongly feel those scientists who need to learn a technique should not have to wait until a course covering that method is offered. Therefore, facility personnel spend a great deal of their time in one-on-one instruction. Typically, new users want to master the basic methods that are used to grow human embryonic and other types of stem cells. We also receive many requests from scientists who want to learn how to use the specialized instruments with which our lab is equipped. Our large number of users is a reflection of the success of our formal and informal teaching efforts. Finally, we matched interns from four Bridges programs with laboratories who are doing research in which they are interested. These research experiences have been rewarding for the hosts and the trainees.