Since the CIRM first awarded this grant to UCSD, the 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 300 scientists in over 60 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, the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias, 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 able to meet the critical need for single cell analysis and isolation for the entire stem cell community.
Most importantly, through the recharging mechanism for flow cytometry, as well as several other unique and enabling technologies, the HESCCF has become a revenue neutral resource that is self-sustaining. The grant provided by the CIRM was critical to establish this state-of-the-art facility. The goal for the upcoming years is to maintain the current operational model of the HESCCF and incorporate new technologies as they become available.