MCW earns grant to advance stem cell research

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:50 am

The Medical College of Wisconsin recently teamed up with Cellular Dynamics International and received a $6.2 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to investigate the mechanisms of Left Ventricular Hypertrophy, or the increase in the size and weight of the heart.  Left Ventricular Hypertrophy is a common and major risk factor for heart disease and heart failure due to high blood pressure or diabetes.
"This grant builds on years of our research to identify genes for this disease. We now have the wonderful opportunity to capitalize on the latest stem cell technology to study human heart cells in the laboratory," said Dr. Ulrich Broeckel, professor of pediatrics, Medicine and Physiology at the Medical College and associate director of the Children’s Research Institute.  "This technology is truly revolutionary since each cell line stands for an individual patient, and we can now start to study the unique disease mechanisms and test new treatments and drugs based on each individual’s unique genetic makeup.  This grant also shows the strength of collaborations between academic investigators and a company which leads to cutting edge research."
The organizations will use the grant funds, totaling $6,255,632 over 5 years, to generate 250 induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from blood samples drawn from Caucasian and African-American families in the Hypertension Genetic Epidemiology Network. All of these families have an elevated burden of high blood pressure and are at significant risk for cardiovascular disease. The iPSC lines will then be differentiated into ventricular heart cells for use in experiments to better understand the genetic mechanisms underlying this disease.
"Until now, functional studies for left ventricular hypertrophy have been limited because human primary cardiomyocytes, or heart cells taken from living tissue, were not available for functional analysis.  Human iPSC technology provides a solution to this problem,” said Emile Nuwaysir, chief operating officer of CDI. “
iPSCs are created from adult cells, such as blood or skin, which are reverse engineered to a stem cell state, from which point they can turn into any cell type in the body. iPSCs can be made from any individual and avoid the political and ethical issues surrounding embryonic stem cells.
According to Nuwaysir, CDI is the only company with the capability to manufacture IPSCs and differentiate them in large numbers and at high quality and purity from a typical, standard blood draw.
“CDI’s human iPSC-derived heart cells, iCell® Cardiomyocytes, exhibit properties highly similar to human primary cells and thus are a relevant model system for the required functional analysis,” Nuwaysir said.
“We are particularly excited about this project because we see it as a harbinger of the next big scientific wave:  the linking of genotype to phenotype through iPSC-derived terminal tissue cells."

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