UW News

October 2, 2000

UW receives $5.3 million for genetic research with blood stem cells

Investigators at the University of Washington UW School of Medicine, will receive $5.3 million over five years to investigate the molecular biology of the stem cells that produce blood.

The grant comes from the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health.

The grant will be used to investigate hemopoietic stem cells, with emphasis on analysis of stem cell genes that play an important role in how the cells function: their proliferation, differentiation and how their mature function is determined.

The investigators have already cloned and sequenced several thousand genes that express in stem cells, and will develop strategies to permit functional analysis of these genes. Specific projects focus on genes that affect the white blood cells and genes that result in leukemia that runs in families.

“We need to understand stem cell genomics. We need to know the stem cell genes and what they are doing in order to be able to manipulate stem cells for the cure of disease,” says Dr. George Stamatoyannopoulos, the principal investigator for the grant and a UW professor of medicine. He heads the Division of Medical Genetics and is director of the Markey Molecular Medicine Center at UW. He is also the founder of the American Society for Gene Therapy.

Other investigators include Dr. David Dale, professor of medicine, general internal medicine; Dr. Marshall Horwitz, associate professor of medicine, medical genetics; Dr. Tony Blau, associate professor of medicine, hematology; Dr. Thalia Papayannopoulou, professor of medicine, hematology; and Dr. Ihor Lemischka, associate professor of molecular biology at Princeton University.

A stem cell is an immature cell that has the capability to differentiate into one of many possible mature cells. Hemopoietic stem cells are a rare form of cell that produces the blood that is needed for life. Their malfunction can also cause illness. The UW investigators hope to learn what makes stem cells do what they do.

“This grant should provide major insights on stem cell biology and stem cell functional genomics,” Stamatoyannopoulos said.