The state of Texas continues to boast some of the most talented and forward-thining stem cell researchers. Among them are stand-out researchers from both Baylor College of Medicine, University of Houston, and Texas A&M, which were recently given grant awards among a group of seven researchers focused on non-embryonic stem cell biology. The grants, which are part of over $2 million in total grant funding, were awarded by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), a nonprofit organization responsible for managing and promoting research aboard the International Space Station’s U.S. National Laboratory.
The grants were given by CASIS based on selected experiments that were chosen from a large pool of submission as part of the organization’s Request for Proposals titled “The Impact of Microgravity on Fundamental Stem Cell Properties.” The scope of the request focused on the following:
Stem cells are cells that have not yet completed differentiation, the change that occurs when cells and tissues become more specialized in their functions. They display remarkable plasticity in their ability to give rise to a spectrum of cell types and ensure life-long tissue rejuvenation and regeneration. Each experiment will use the unique microgravity environment aboard the space station to conduct experimentation that could produce tremendous health benefits for humankind – via advancements in drug screening, tissue engineering/regeneration, cell replacement therapy and cell reprogramming.
One of the grants went to Dr. Carl Gregory from Texas A&M Health Science Center, together with Drs. Roland Kaunas and Jun Kameoka from Texas A&M Departments of Biomedical and Electrical & Computer Engineering. This team will work toward developing a new system for co-culturing and analyzing stem cells mixed with bone tumor cells in microgravity. Since 35-50% of cancers metastasize to bone, this project will facilitate identification of potential molecular targets for drugs that target these types of cancer.
In addition, Dr. Robert Schwartz from the University of Houston, working with Drs. Clifford Dacso and Austin Cooney at Baylor College of Medicine, “will examine the effect of simulated microgravity on two critical genes involved in reprogramming fibroblasts into cardiac progenitor cells, toward potential cell therapies.”