The CIRM Shared Research and Teaching Laboratory at UCSF had a successful year of operation. As to the research component of our activities, there is an extensive and varied group of stem cell scientists, including faculty and members of their research groups, that use the Facility. The importance of this resource is reflected in the fact that the full range of stem cell research areas at UCSF is represented in our users. These include projects that focus on stem cell pluripotency and reprogramming, as well as early human development, hematopoiesis (blood cell development), pregnancy, uterine, neuronal, pancreatic, and liver biology. In addition, several of our user groups work on cancer stem cells and malignancy. The Facility is used by scientists to culture and study human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (adult cells that have been reprogrammed back to a naïve state). Much of the work in the Facility is highly specialized since the requirements for stem cell culture are more stringent than for other types of cells. The equipment, including state-of-the-art incubators, hoods and microscopes is housed in a space that is maintained with near “clean room” standards since antibiotics use, common practice with other cell types, is often precluded for stem cells. In addition, we have the equipment to perform videomicroscopy. We can also separate live cells based on specific characteristics. Subsequently, they can be studied in isolation, or transplanted into animals to determine their potential for regenerative medicine applications.
The Facility was run by the Operational Director, Mr. Nick Larocque, under the supervision of Dr. Susan Fisher. Mr. Larocque worked closely with users on a day-to-day basis providing informal training and answering questions. In addition, he made sure all the equipment was in working order and utilized efficiently. In March, Mr. Larocque’s duties were taken over by Dr. Tamara Marsh, an embryologist and stem cell biologist with extensive experience working in the Facility. Drs. Linda Giudice and Susan Fisher establish overall direction of the Facility as they have from its inception. The Oversight Committee was led by Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, the Director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF. He and the rest of the Committee provided valuable insight since they work in many of the key areas of stem cell research and are major users of the Facility.
With regard to our teaching activities, as in past years we conducted week-long courses that consisted of lectures in the morning and a laboratory component in the afternoon. Drs. McMaster and Fisher design and oversee the lectures and Mr. Larocque (and starting with our most recent course in March, Dr. Marsh) direct the laboratory portion in which our students learn basic and advanced techniques for stem cell culture and research. Mr. Slomovits played a key role in advertising and communications for the courses. This year we offered the course 5 times, to a total of 46 participants. Students at all levels attended, with a significant number from undergraduate programs at the City and State Colleges who are our partners in the CIRM Bridges Program. We also had many participants from California Universities.
The didactic components of the courses included presentations on human development, important foundations for scientists who will be applying these principles to application of regenerative medicine therapies in the future. We also discussed development and diseases of the brain and nervous system, pancreas, liver, digestive tract and blood. Depending on the group and their background and interests, we covered cancer biology, including cancer stem cells and concepts of malignancy and recurrence. With regard to the laboratory components of the courses, we taught the participants principles and specific methods for growing human embryonic stem cells and performing morphological assessments. We also taught methods (e.g., flow sorting) to analyze the cells for expression of key molecules, determine their state of pluripotency and/or assess their differentiation into the various kinds of cells in the body. The courses have been well attended and the students report that they are very useful and informative. Therefore we have no plan for altering our established curriculum in stem cell biology. In addition to the one-week courses, we performed one-on-one training sessions for scientists who wanted to learn how to do more elaborate types of experiments or more highly specialized methods.
In summary, the Oversight Committee and user group have determined that the Facility is working efficiently and provides a vital resource. Aside from the change in the Operational Director from Mr. Larocque to Dr. Marsh in March, we anticipate no major turnovers in the coming year. The teaching activities are also highly rated so we plan no major changes to the curriculum.