Inside Rensselaer
* Glenn Monastersky

Rensselaer Wins $2.45 Million Grant
To Support Stem Cell Research

A four-year, $2.45 million grant from the New York Stem Cell Science Program (NYSTEM) will position Rensselaer as an upstate center for stem cell research. The grant, won by Glenn Monastersky, director of operations at the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, will be used to create designated laboratory space with trained support staff and equipment targeted to the unique needs of stem cell researchers.

Monastersky said the focus of the research will be the basic science critical to development of stem-cell based therapies for human diseases and traumatic injuries. Growing the cells and controlling their “differentiation” are key challenges.

“The funds awarded by New York state will be used to provide sophisticated laboratories with high-throughput culture and imaging equipment in the CBIS, dedicated to the very specialized needs of stem cell researchers,” Monastersky said.

Rensselaer is already active in stem cell research. A number of Rensselaer faculty members, including NYSTEM-funded researchers Robert Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering, and Deanna Thompson, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, maintain stem cell research programs within the CBIS. Monastersky said the new grant will greatly enhance the program.

A key goal of the grant is to encourage upstate researchers to take advantage of the availability of the Rensselaer stem cell facility. Monastersky said that Rensselaer will be working with several key players in the field.

“The idea was to create an upstate center of excellence so we can maximize the research that’s going on in New York state,” Monastersky said. “These facilities and the associated scientific staff will enhance collaborations with several New York state partners, including the New York Neural Stem Cell Institute, Albany Medical College, and the Ordway Institute.”

Scientific colleagues from the University at Albany, the University of Rochester Medical School, Northeast Health System, and the Trudeau Institute also will participate in guiding the research efforts with Monastersky.

Stem cell therapies hold promise for treatments of human diseases and traumatic injuries because they can be grown into specialized cells like nerve, muscle, and bone, and could therefore be used to regenerate missing or damaged cells.

Rensselaer plans to work with existing stem cell lines, Monastersky said.

Monastersky said the focus of the research in the CBIS will be the basic science critical to development of stem-cell based therapies for human diseases and traumatic injuries. Growing the cells and controlling their “differentiation” —i.e., guiding their development into the specialized cell types of the human body — are key scientific challenges.

“All of these totipotent cells from the very early embryo are identical, and have the potential to develop into any of the mature cell types of the body,” Monastersky said. “To use them, we need to know how to guide the development of cultured embryonic stem cells into these specialized cell types — e.g., nerve, muscle, and bone cells.”

Space within the existing collection of Research Cores in the CBIS will be created as a dedicated resource for stem cell research, for Rensselaer investigators, and for stem cell researchers from other institutions, particularly across New York state.

“We are excited that this funding will enhance our ongoing efforts to recruit world-class faculty for our faculty Constellation in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, which is located in the CBIS,” Monastersky said.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 11, June 18, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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