Cleveland stem cell investigators awarded $3.1 million

10/11/04

National Institute on Aging funds research

The Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine in Cleveland has received two grants totaling $3.1 million from the National Institute on Aging to study the role of stem cells in aging.

The Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (CSCRM) is a consortium of Case Western Reserve University (Case), University Hospitals of Cleveland (UH) and The Cleveland Clinic. The two grants, to be disbursed over five years, were awarded to Stanton Gerson, M.D., director of the Cleveland Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine; George Muschler, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at The Cleveland Clinic; and Jaroslow Maciejewski, M.D., a hematologist at the Clinic. All three are faculty members of the Case School of Medicine.

The grants represent two of five awards made nationwide by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, for stem cell research in the area of aging.

"Competition for funding is keen and the multiple awards to Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine members underscores the quality and competitive merit of the innovative stem cell work being conducted at the center," Dr. Gerson said. "Cutting-edge clinical research on adult stem cells continues to lead to clinical trials in stem cell failure, cancer and orthopedic disorders, areas in which the Clinic and UH are nationally recognized."

Dr. Gerson received a grant for his project "Declining DNA Repair in Aging Hematopoietic Stem Cells," a study to test the hypothesis that deterioration of blood stem cells in bone marrow contributes to anemia and bone marrow failure in the aging process. The ability to divide and faithfully produce more cells is an important part of a stem cell's ability to contribute therapeutically. However, as cells age, they may not be able to divide properly.

Dr. Gerson's team will study the ability of stem cells from individuals, ages 50 to 90, to withstand DNA damage associated with aging and with environmental toxins. In addition to being director of the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Gerson is director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and University Hospital's Ireland Cancer Center.

Stem cells have the potential to develop into various cell types and function as a "repair system" for the body. Theoretically, stem cells can divide without limit to replenish other cells for an individual's lifetime. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to remain a stem cell or to develop with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell or a blood cell.

Drs. Muschler and Maciejewski received a grant for their project "Optimizing Assays of Human Stem Cells in Bone Marrow," a study that focuses on understanding the relationship between the stem cells in bone and marrow and the health of bone and marrow tissue during aging. Bone marrow contains multiple types of stem cells, including hematopoietic stem cells that form blood and connective tissue stem cells and progenitors that can form bone marrow stroma, bone, fat, cartilage and other tissues.

Using bone marrow samples from patients ages 30 to 90 undergoing elective hip replacement they will examine how the number and function of these cells changes with age and the relationship between the stem cell pool and tissue health.

Commenting on the significance of these awards, Dr. Muschler states, "These grants create an exciting opportunity for us, and reinforce the expanding role and leadership that Cleveland is taking in linking state-of-the-art stem cell research to clinical problems and applications."

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