MGH named by NHLBI as Specialized Center for Cell-Based Therapy for Heart, Lung and Blood Diseases
Local investigations will focus on the impact of the stem cell environment
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is one of three U.S. academic medical centers to receive grants under a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) program supporting research into cell-based therapies. The new Specialized Centers for Cell-Based Therapy for Heart, Lung and Blood Diseases – also being established at Baylor College of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University – will incorporate the work of basic researchers while focusing on clinical applications of these treatments (NHLBI release: http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/sep2005/nhlbi-29.htm).
The principal investigator for the MGH center is David Scadden, MD, director of the new MGH Center for Regenerative Medicine and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). "This grant is an endorsement of what our Center and the Institute are designed to do – to bring basic researchers together with clinical scientists in an infrastructure that will help transform laboratory discoveries into new therapies as quickly as possible," he says.
The MGH team will focus on the biological environments in which adult stem cells are normally found – for example the particular section of bone marrow housing blood stem cells. Scadden explains that components of these environments can determine whether or not stem cells remain quiescent or become activated to produce mature cells and tissues. Once these critical components have been identified, techniques will be developed to control or improve stem cell activity. Scadden and colleagues, Henry Kronenberg, MD, and Gregor Adams, PhD, have shown this approach can dramatically affect tissue regeneration in animal models, leading to the current effort to extend the concept to human patients.
"We hope to provide proof of principle that we can influence stem cell activity by manipulating these microenvironments with medications," Scadden says. "We'll initially be testing this concept on blood and bone marrow stem cells, but we hope to extend the work to other tissue types." A professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Scadden hopes the program will become a resource for scientists throughout the Harvard system and the Boston medical community, as well as other centers nationwide.
The MGH Center for Regenerative Medicine opened this summer in the recently completed Richard B. Simches Research Center at Charles River Plaza. Its mission is to develop new ways of regenerating or repairing damaged tissues using stem cell biology and tissue engineering. It is a fully integrated component of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and serves as a point where the work of the larger HSCI community will address the clinical care needs of patients and physicians.
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