Inside Salk - June 2008 - page 4

A day earlier, the Wangs—
who are not related— had pulled a
vial of frozen hESCs from a storage
tank filled with liquid nitrogen and
placed them in a Petri dish.
Bathed in culture medium enriched
with nutrients and kept at a cozy
37 degree Celsius (98.6 degrees
Fahrenheit), the cells had settled
overnight and now were clamoring
for fresh nutrients.
“I am not familiar with stem
cells and when I look at them
through the microscope it is
difficult for me to tell whether they
are happy or not,” says QianWang,
who mostly works with bacteria and
baker’s yeast. “It is important to
have somebody to guide and teach
us until we have enough experience ourselves.”
Both Qian andWenyuan are among the first group of young
scientists being trained by Berggren to grow hESC at the Institute’s
new stem cell core facility. The transformation of the former storage
space into a modern stem cell laboratory was made possible by a $2.3
million grant awarded to Salk last summer by the California Institute
for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).
But the newly minted facility is more than just a training center. The
2,000 square-foot lab also serves as shared space for Salk scientists to
conduct research on hESCs without the restrictions placed on federally
funded stem cell research.
“It is a complete research facility much like the other cores here at
Salk,” says Berggren, who heads the stem cell core with labmanager
Margaret Lutz (see related story on page 7). “There are a limited
number of stem cell lines available for research through federal funds,
but this facility is completely free of federal funding.
“We now have the space, resources and expertise for Salk
researchers to not only learn how to do stem cell culture, but to also
carry out experiments with human embryonic stem cells.”
Program Project Director Inder Verma, professor in the Laboratory of
Genetics, submitted the grant proposal and planned the facility’s layout
with Garry Van Gerpen, vice president of Scientific Services.
“When we started planning this facility, about one-third of the Salk
faculty expressed interest in working with human stem cells,” says
Verma. “We envisioned that it would serve as a primer for people to get
interested and that it would be a place where they could learn how to
grow andmanipulate stem cells, and from there they couldmove
forward to do what they like to do.”
An important aspect of the new facility is the ability it provides to
produce lentiviral vectors to deliver genes into cells. Originally
developed for gene therapeutic purposes by Verma and his team, the
technology will play a central role in the reprogramming of adult
human cells (such as skin cells) back into so-called induced
pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that appear to mimic hESCs in terms of
appearance and behavior.
Inside Salk June 2008
Stem Cell Core Facility Opens
Anand Srivastava
and newly delivered furniture still
permeated the air as WenyuanWang
and QianWang arrived to feed their
human embryonic stem cells (hESC)
under the watchful eyes of staff
scientist Travis Berggren.
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