Year 3

In year 3, the training grant funded the stipends of 6 postdoctoral trainees, enabling them to receive training in human stem cell biology relevant to regenerative medicine. Projects included skeletal muscle stem cell renewal, use of stem cells to understand the developmental basis of Alzheimer’s Disease, development of drugs for blood vessel regeneration, and pancreatic beta cell regeneration for Diabetes. Overall, the program supports the training of a new generation of stem cell researchers, some with clinical training, and also expanded the ability of our research laboratories to engage in regenerative medicine and create the researchers of the future.

Administrative accomplishments by the Program included:
– A multi-institutional course in stem cell biology, research ethics, and legal/business issues relevant to stem cell biology and regenerative medicine that was taught in conjunction with similar CIRM programs at the Salk Institute, the Scripps Research Institute, and the University of California, San Diego.This interdisciplinary lecture/discussion course was developed specifically for this program to cover human embryonic and other stem cells and their uses in basic science, translation, and clinical research and application. The course has units on basic embryology and on specific clinical applications.
– The Training Program conducted a search for new trainees. 6 new trainees were selected following a competitive application process.
– A one-day retreat was organized at which trainees presented their research to colleagues, and discussed emerging technologies and advances in regenerative medicine.
– A stem cell seminar series and a trainee seminar series
– The program funded trainees to attend up to one nationally recognized scientific meeting annually.

Scientific accomplishments by our trainees included:
– Discovery of a gene that enhances dopaminergic neuron production by human stem cells in a Parkinson’s Disease model, Shing Fai Chan (PLoS One, 2011).
– Discovery of a method to produce skeletal muscle cells directly from human pluripotent stem cells, Sonia Albini (Cell Reports, 2012)
– Identification of drugs that activate pancreatic beta cell differentiation, Ron Piran (ACS Chemical Biology, 2013).
– Discovery of the biological mechanism that senses stretch in heart muscle and hence contributes to heart failure, Cecilia Hurtado and Ke Wei (both trainees) (Nature, 2012).
– Synthesis and characterization of a new drug-like molecule that induces cardiomyocytes from human pluripotent stem cells, Erik Willems (Cell Stem Cell, 2012)

The Director administered the program with the support of an Executive Committee consisting of Fred Levine, MD, PhD, Alessandra Sacco, PhD, Guy Salvesen, PhD, and Evan Snyder, MD, PhD. The Executive Committee advised the Director on the 1) selection of trainees for appointment, 2) select faculty for appointment and evaluate participation, 3) long-range direction of the program, 4) review the curricula and course requirements and, importantly, 5) trainee progress.