UCI research center displays stem cell work in tour

The Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UC Irvine opened its doors Thursday for the public to check out the latest developments in projects from professors, researchers and Ph.D. students.

Since the opening of the Sue and Bill Gross Hall in 2010, the center has held several open houses for curious crowds.

A handful of guests took a self-guided tour Thursday through labs and stations in the facility to meet research groups. A team led by Matthew Inlay, an assistant professor of molecular biology, was among the presenters.

Inlay and various Ph.D. students have been researching the development of hemotopoietic stem cells. These are the cells needed from bone marrow transplants to treat patients with leukemia and other blood disorders.

The team is examining the development of those cells to see if they can be made from induced pluripotent stem cells. Those cells can, in theory, turn into any type of adult cell, but they cannot turn into hemotopoetic stem cells, as Ph.D. student and team member Ankita Shukla stated in her presentation to guests Thursday.

The attempt to turn pluripotent stem cells in to the cells that can give rise to new blood and treat patients has been done by researchers before, according to Shukla.

"A lot of people have tried," Shukla said. "And a lot of people have failed."

Research by Magdalene Seiler, an assistant professor in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at UCI, also was presented Thursday.

Her work involves restoring some eyesight to visually impaired rats by using stem cell tissue. The hope is that someday the same type of treatment may work for humans.

From the stem cell tissue, a retina was made and implanted into the left eye of the rats.

Four months later, the rats' eye sight was put to the test by placing them in a barrel with stripes along the inside.

When their left eye faced the stripes, researchers knew they could see them because they kept moving around the barrel to follow the stripes, said Anu Mathur, a Stem Cell Research Center member. When their right eye faced the stripes, the rats were not as responsive.

"[The eyesight] will not get back to normal, but there's some improvement," Seiler said.

Since the opening of the center, UCI researchers have examined the application of stem cells to treat neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases.


Twitter: @AlexandraChan10

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