The University of Minnesota is one of 18 research groups to participate in a $170 million study of stem and progenitor cells, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute announced Wednesday. The institute is funding the seven-year study to learn more about basic cell biology and to design better cell therapies, Denis Buxton, the consortiumâÄôs lead project professor, said. The study will focus on challenges in cell transplantation, and characterizing progenitor cell lines, which are the âÄúmost primitive offspring,âÄù of stem cells, Dr. Daniel Garry, principal investigator for the study at the UniversityâÄôs of Minnesota, said. Five professors from the UniversityâÄôs Lillehei Heart Institute and the Stem Cell Institute will participate in the study, and will work closely with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Their âÄúhubâÄù will study the signals and regulating factors that direct stem cells to heart and blood cells and blood vessels, Garry said. The UniversityâÄôs research will focus on three phases, including improving heart function in large animal studies, how genes regulate stem cells to become heart or blood cells, and the scaffold of tissues called the extracellular matrix, Garry said. Other schools in the study include Stanford, Harvard and Johns Hopkins, Garry said. âÄúItâÄôs pretty good company to keep,âÄù he said. The schools had to submit their ideas for smaller grants through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, before being selected for the consortium in an âÄúunusually complicated,âÄù process Buxton said. The UniversityâÄôs group of researchers came together from across the stem cell and cardiovascular departments to apply for the grant, Dr. Dan Kaufman, a study member and professor at the Stem Cell Institute, said. The study will use stem cells, embryonic stem cells and pluripotent stem cells, which are âÄútaking your skin cell and reprogramming it to become a stem cell,âÄù Garry said. The pluripotent cells have âÄúenormous potentialâÄù for better understanding diseases, Buxton said. The collaborative group will meet annually in the late summer or early fall for the next seven years, and every three months members will discuss research in a conference call, Dr. Michael Terrin, director of the consortiumâÄôs administrative coordinating center, said.