- About Us
Stem cell research at UCSC focuses on the basic biological systems operating in the processes of self-renewal and differentiation of stem cells.
Stem cells hold great promise for curing or mitigating the effects of many diseases and injuries. But before a single clinical trial can commence, basic research must take place to uncover the pathways, mechanisms, and cellular effects of potential stem-cell-based cures. Basic research is also needed to overcome technological hurdles, such as how to ensure that stem cells work effectively when injected into a living organism. Investment in basic research of the kind done at the IBSC is an essential step toward stem-cell based cures.
Stem cells interest us because of their unique characteristics: In a developing embryo, stem cells can divide and differentiate into all of the specialized embryonic tissues. In adult organisms, adult stem cells act as the body’s repair and renewal system, able to become any of the more than 200 types of cells in the adult body. At the same time, they can self-renew, so that a population of the undifferentiated stem cells remains to make more new cells.
Stem cell projects at UCSC address five key questions:
1. How can we replace damaged cells? Offering hope for treating Parkinson’s, stroke, and Alzheimer’s and for advances in wound healing.
2. How can we control what stem cells become? Essential to the development of stem-cell-based therapies for immune system diseases, type 2 diabetes, and remediation of genetic defects.
3. How do stem cells work in living systems? Useful for developing bone marrow stem cells that can resist the toxicity of certain cancer chemotherapies, for improving clinical applications of stem cell therapy, for addressing neurodevelopmental disorders, and for a big-picture understanding of developmental systems.
4. Can we overcome the technical hurdles? UCSC labs are developing new technologies to help overcome the unique technical challenges associated with stem cell biology and therapies.
5. Seeing the big picture—and mining it. To get a handle on the mountains of stem cell data coming from California laboratories, UCSC develops computer and mathematical programs to help understand stem cell behavior.