Cell research institute will join U in 2000

by Nathan Whalen

A new $2 million stem-cell research institute will be added to Moos Tower by December 2000, the Board of Regents decided Thursday.
The funding will enable the University to recruit 13 additional researchers to examine the use of stem cells in tissue and organ development. Researchers currently work in Cancer Center and the Mayo Memorial Building laboratories.
“There are still lots of holes in the whole picture,” said Dr. Catherine Verfaillie, director of the stem-cell biology program.
Verfaillie, a Belgium native who studies blood, said she hopes to find researchers with different medical specialities to broaden the University’s stem-cell research.
Stem cells are formative cells that account for one out of every 100 million cells in the body. Stem cells have the potential to develop into virtually any organ or tissue.
If successful, research could help treat diseases such as Parkinson’s and cancer.
The stem-cell institute will include a large, open laboratory and an isolation lab designed to protect environmentally sensitive material. University officials pushed up their renovation plans to keep Verfaillie on campus.
Frank Cerra, senior vice president for the Academic Health Center, called Verfaillie one of the foremost experts in the stem-cell research field.
University researchers will examine the potential of stem cells originating from adult bone marrow. They hope these stem cells could be used to develop muscle tissue, heart tissue and neurons.
Using adult stem cells does not carry the same philosophical baggage as using embryonic stem cells from aborted fetuses, Verfaillie said.
If the University research is successful, she said controversial embryonic stem-cell research might become unnecessary.

— Staff Reporter Craig Gustafson contributed to this report.

Nathan Whalen covers construction and facilities and welcomes comments at [email protected]