Regenerative medicine is an emerging field that will only realize its highest potential through novel and collaborative research approaches. The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) is well positioned to make significant contributions by leveraging fundamental stem cell-based biomedical research efforts with enabling technologies in materials, microfluidics and bioengineering. We have developed and renovated 1400 sq. ft. shared-use stem cell laboratory called the Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering, which has been in use since May 2010. The overall mission of this laboratory is to facilitate and promote stem cell research by investigators at UCSB, as well as those at neighboring universities, research institutes, and biotechnology companies on the California central coast. Since the initiation of this endeavor, the facility has become an essential core facility supporting novel, interdisciplinary research investigations, invigorating new collaborations and grant activity not previously possible.
Past and current users of the Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering include 74 researchers (7 new researchers in the past year) from 19 research groups, representing collaborations with 12 companies and 17 different universities and research institutes. Additionally, grantees from CIRM-funded Disease Teams, Training Grants and Tools and Technologies have used the Facility. We are also involved with the CIRM Bridges program at California State University–Channel Islands, hosting a total of 8 interns thus far. Ongoing projects are supported by grants from CIRM, the US Army, the NIH and NSF, as well as private sources, resulting in important publications that have advanced the field.
Research carried out in the facility has made significant, high impact contributions in three areas of stem cell research: Molecular Mechanisms/Basic Science, Translational Bioengineering and Regenerative Medicine. Discoveries in fundamental basic research have revealed how human embryonic stem cells regulate gene expression to maintain pluripotency, how induced pluripotent stem cells retain a “memory” of their origin, and how adult stem cells differentiate in response to their environmental milieu. Advances in bioengineering have addressed problems of how to control growth and differentiation of stem cells using novel biomaterials, how to sort and purify specific stem cell products, and how to deliver and sustain stem cell grafts in vivo. Collaborations with clinical groups are contributing to novel regenerative strategies for treatments of eye disease and neurodegenerative disorders.