May 15, 2010

Cure for Alzheimer's Disease? UC Irvine Opens Stem Cell Research Institute

Last year, I wrote about how it is my belief that a cure for Alzheimer's disease could come from stem cell research.

Bob De Marco +Alzheimer's Reading Room

I get asked all the time, when do I think there will be a cure for Alzheimer's disease. That is a question that is difficult to answer right now.

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Last year, I wrote about how it is my belief as a non-doctor, non-sceintist that the greatest hope for an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease will come in the area of stem cell research. I am particularly interested in research on neural stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells.

At the time, I pointed to the research on neural stem cells being done by Frank LaFerla and associates at the UC Irvine's Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders -- go here.

With a $10-million gift from Bill Gross, co-founder of PIMCO, a $27.2-million grant from the California regenerative medicine agency, and an additional $80-million from private funding, UC Irvine announced the opening of the first stem cell research institute in the state of California.

The California regenerative medicine agency was created after passage of Proposition 71 in 2004 by 59% of voters, who supported new funding sources for stem cell research after then-President George W. Bush banned federal funding to develop new stem cell lines. They have also given grants to the University of Southern California and UCLA.

I believe this news is important for families touched by Alzheimer's disease. Institutes and research facilities like this one at UC Irvine afford a real opportunity for stem cell researchers to come together, collaborate, and to share their intellectual capital.

Good news for a change.

In one of the most significant milestones in its 45-year history, UC Irvine will dedicate its $80-million, 100,000-square-foot stem cell research building Friday, May 14.
Reflecting the campus’s deep commitment to shaping the future of healthcare, Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute is the first major stem cell center in Southern California, a region known for biomedical innovation.

It’s also the state’s first such facility built from the ground up and designed specifically for stem cell research, placing UCI at the forefront of a burgeoning field that gives hope to millions of people worldwide who suffer from such debilitating conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury, diabetes and macular degeneration.

“This revolutionary science has the potential to save millions of lives, and this new research center is great news for those living with some of today’s most debilitating diseases,” said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I applaud Sue and Bill Gross for their generous donation towards this important work and helping to put UC Irvine on the cutting-edge of stem cell research. I look forward to seeing the great successes that develop from this institute that will help treat some of today’s most life-threatening diseases.”

The four-story, state-of-the-art building will serve as a regional hub for stem cell research and education. It will house the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, dozens of lab-based and clinical researchers, a stem cell techniques course, and a master’s program in biotechnology with an emphasis on stem cell research.

“This is exciting. We are at the threshold of the realization of medical discoveries – based on stem cells and regenerative medicine – that could prove to be the next great advance in medicine,” Chancellor Michael Drake said.

Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute is the result of a successful public-private partnership to transform modern medicine. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine – created through 2004’s Proposition 71, funding stem cell research – allocated $27.2 million to the project.

Laguna Beach philanthropists Sue and Bill Gross made an initial $10-million gift that the campus leveraged to attract the CIRM award. Bill Gross is co-founder and co-chief investment officer of Newport Beach-based PIMCO, one of the world’s largest investment management firms. The remaining funds came from additional private support and the University of California.

“The dedication of this important building is exciting for UCI, CIRM and the entire state,” said Robert Klein, chair of CIRM’s governing body. “Proposition 71’s early ‘push’ for construction of research facilities like Sue & Bill Gross Hall will now generate a long-term ‘pull’ of added funding from other organizations. This will, in turn, accelerate stem cell research and therapy development for California patients and their families.”

Since the campus’s founding in 1965, UCI scientists have conducted seminal biological research to understand and unlock the potential of stem cells. Among several major breakthroughs, they pioneered research into the use of human stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries and demonstrated that neural stem cells may help restore memory after brain damage.

In addition, UCI experts are at the forefront of human embryonic stem cell research, which fully aligns the campus with CIRM’s goals.

“We realize the importance of the mission this new, state-of-the-art facility presents to us,” said Peter Donovan, director of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. “We know stem cell research and regenerative medicine represent hope to millions of people, and we aspire to fully deliver on their potential.”

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,101 articles with more than 452,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room