The CIRM funded shared research laboratories, including the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility (HESCCF) located in the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM) and the Cell Engineering Research Center (CERC) located in the Jacobs School of Engineering, have been the corner stones of the UCSD Stem Cell Program and have offered scientists, from early career to established, a unique environment to launch, sustain and expand their stem cell research programs. In December 2011, the HESCCF moved from its original location on the UCSD Health Sciences campus to the SCRM, the CIRM Major Facility that provides research space to the Consortium member institutes: UCSD, Salk Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, Sanford-Burnham Institute and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology.
Since its inception, the HESCCF has provided a fast start for researchers at and around UCSD to work with human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). With the support of the CIRM-funded grant, the HESCCF was able to expand significantly, adding several enabling technologies and establishing a satellite laboratory in the School of Engineering, now called the CERC, where novel technologies, such as nanotechnologies, biomaterials, and tissue engineering are explored and applied to the study of stem cells and regenerative medicine.
The combined staff of the HESCCF and CERC has interacted with over 200 scientists in over 50 labs at UCSD and its neighboring institutes. Research projects initiated and elaborated in these core facilities touch on a broad spectrum of topics, including cancer stem cells, early human embryonic patterning and development, blood, skin, liver and pancreas development, and stem cell interactions with their microenvironments/niches. Investigators operating in the core facility address a variety of human malignancies, such as childhood neurological diseases, cardiovascular problems, neurodegenerative disorders (including ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases), and Type 1 diabetes. The large number of scientists actively using the HESCCF and CERC has fostered multiple collaborations across campus and the Torrey Pines Mesa. Existence of these well-designed and well-equipped facilities has attracted substantial funding beyond CIRM, including from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, to name a few.
The HESCCF and CERC have become centers for training where scientists can acquire many of the critical techniques and skills to become competent and competitive stem cell researchers. In recent years, the HESCCF has emphasized the expansion of flow cytometry and its application to human pluripotent stem cells and their derivatives. Now operating four flow cytometers (2 cell sorters and 2 analyzers) the HESCCF is now able to meet the critical need for single cell analysis and isolation for the entire stem cell community.
The HESCCF provides the following resources and technologies:
Cell culture facilities: 7 biosafety cabinets and 11 incubators provide ample capacity for over 60 scientists to conduct stem cell research.
Characterization of hPSC lines: Basic protocols to ensure cell lines are pluripotent, karyotypically normal and free of bacterial contamination are available.
Training: Researchers and students are trained in essential hESC methods.
Lenti- and retro-virus technology: In coordination with the adjacent Viral Vector Core Facility of the SCRM, the HESCCF provides expertise and resources to generate non-replicating lenti viruses to introduce genetic elements into hPSC lines. This technology is also available for induced pluripotent cell lines.
Cell imaging technologies. Confocal microscopy, live cell imaging capabilities and high content imaging are available.
The Cell Engineering Research Center (CERC), which became fully operational in 2011, offers the following laboratory services to bioengineering researchers:
Cell culture facilities: Biosafety cabinets, incubators, microscopes, freezers and refrigerators provide the essentials for stem cell culture.
Training: In the Student Tissue Engineering Laboratory students have gained hands-on experience with experimental techniques, such as collagen gel and synthetic polymers fabrication.
Specialized technologies: The CERC offers FACS, GPC, Rheometer, Dielectrophoresis capability, and a Cyntellect LEAP.