Stem Cell Board To Begin Site Search This Week
A subcommittee of the board mandated by Proposition 71 to create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine on Tuesday will meet via teleconference to begin a site-selection process for the institute, while a separate panel will begin the search for a chief executive to run the institute, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Sites under consideration include Torrey Pines, an area around San Diego that has about 100 biotech companies within a five-mile radius, and the Mission Bay area of San Francisco next to the expanding University of California-San Francisco biomedical campus.
Site recommendations go before the full board at its Feb. 3 meeting in San Diego (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/24).
In related news, new findings that all federally approved stem cell lines are contaminated with a foreign molecule and are likely unsuitable for transplantation could "bolster the influence of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine," the Los Angeles Times reports (Kaplan, Los Angeles Times, 1/24).
Researchers at the University of California-San Diego and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla have discovered that mice "feeder" layers, which were used to grow stem cell lines, have led to absorption of an acidic sugar molecule found in all mammals except humans. In a study released Sunday on the journal Nature Medicine's Web site, researchers conclude that the human immune system would attack these implanted stem cells.
Although the existing cell lines can still be used for research, attention likely will turn to finding new stem cell lines and developing ways to grow stem cells in labs without relying on nonhuman animal cells (Lieberman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/24).
Susan Fisher, a UCSF professor of cell and tissue biology, said, "This is why Proposition 71 is so important. We will be able to do this basic research to be able to really produce a strong foundation on which this work can continue" (Los Angeles Times, 1/24).
"Made all the more important by the perhaps fatal problems with federally approved stem cells," California's stem cell board must not allow its progress to be "hindered by interest groups that would like to prohibit it from issuing any grants unless discussions are conducted in public," a Times editorial states. Although "hold[ing] private meetings to devise ethical standards for research" is "foolish," the editorial states that "[b]iotech companies have good reason not to discuss their new medical discoveries in public until they're safely patented."
The editorial also dismisses "controversy" over some board members' "financial ties with biomedical companies," stating, "[P]eople who understand stem cell research are likely to have worked for the industry" (Los Angeles Times, 1/24).