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Wellcome Trust, MRC kick off $20 million iPS initiative
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


LONDON—The Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council (MRC) have announced the beginning of a £12.75 million (approximately $20.4 million) initiative to create a collection of high-quality adult stem cells, specifically induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The undertaking will provide a knowledge base for the use of iPS cells in the study of the effects genes have on health and disease, in addition to being a first step toward the development of a new iPS cell bank. The project, known as the Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiative, will generate iPS cells from healthy volunteers and patient groups, and will be led by King's College London and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
"The Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiative brings together world-leading expertise in clinical genetics, stem cell biology and genomic technologies. We believe that this research will drive forward the translation of basic research into improved diagnosis and treatment of disease," Prof. Fiona Watt of King's College London said in a press release. "At King's, we also hope this will enable us to open a 'Stem Cell Hotel', providing a platform for collaborative experiments between clinician scientists with in-depth knowledge of specific diseases and cell biologists who have the tools to obtain quantitative readouts of cell behavior."  
iPS are generated from taking regular adult cells and reprogramming them into stem cells, essentially undoing the differentiation that all stem cells undergo. Reverting them to stem cells allows them to once again have the potential to differentiate into a variety of different cell types. The cell collection that will result from this initiative will be the most comprehensive resource of its kind in the United Kingdom for investigating the effects of genetic variation on cell behavior and diseases.  
"The Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiative will be an important resource that will help researchers around the world understand the links between genetic variation, cell behavior and disease, and speed up the translation of this research into improved diagnosis and treatment of disease," said Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust. "The field of induced pluripotent stem cell research was made possible thanks to the seminal discoveries of Sir John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, who were last month awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology for their work. This is a field in which the U.K. remains at the cutting-edge. Our investment in this new initiative should further strengthen the U.K.'s position and lead to patient benefit."
Investigators from the Sanger Institute will endeavor to generate more than 1,000 iPS cell lines, from both healthy subjects and those with diseases. The project will also include collaborations with other research bodies such as the University of Cambridge, University of Dundee, European Bioinformatics Institute and University College London.
"Induced pluripotent stem cells hold enormous potential to help us understand and treat human disease, but currently the application of iPS cell technology is limited by gaps in our knowledge regarding their biological properties and how we can best manipulate them to accurately model human disease," said Prof. Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC. "By investing in a U.K.-wide initiative in iPS cell technology, we hope to propel UK researchers to the forefront of this rapidly evolving field and provide an invaluable stock of high- quality cell lines for use by academia and industry alike."    
SOURCE: Wellcome Trust press release
Code: E11071201



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