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NHLBI awards first grants in new cell-based research program for heart, lung and blood diseases.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the first three grants in its new research program on cell-based therapy of heart, lung, and blood diseases.

The Specialized Centers for Cell-Based Therapy for Heart, Lung and Blood Diseases will involve both basic and clinical research but is heavily focused on clinical applications, NHLBI said in a press release.

NHLBI Director Elizabeth Nabel, MD, said the $6.5 million program will attempt to solve some of the problems and challenges of cell-based therapy including repair of damaged heart muscle, reducing immune complications due to graft versus host disease (GvHD), and enhancing the interaction of adult stem cells and their tissue environment.

Many of the 5-year studies will begin with preclinical animal or laboratory research to support an Investigational New Drug Application submission to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) followed by Phase I and II clinical studies for safety and effectiveness, respectively.

The centers awarded the grants and principal investigators include:

*Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX - Malcolm Brenner, MD, PhD. The group will focus on two clinical studies. In one study, the scientists will genetically modify donor immune cells used in stem cell therapy for treatment of patients with cancer and other diseases. The donor cells will be enhanced to speed recovery and reduce the effects of GvHD, a potential complication of stem cell transplantation. The second study will involve modification of immune cells used in stem cell transplants to protect the recipients from the viral infections that are so common in immune compromised patients. A basic research study will investigate potential therapies using stem cells in the heart.

*Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD - Joshua Hare, MD. The research team will study the development of stem cell-based therapies to regenerate the heart and to reverse heart failure in patients with ischemic heart disease. The team will initially study the use of bone-marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells as a treatment for ischemia. Mesenchymal stem cells have the potential to develop into mature cells that produce fat, cartilage, bone, tendons, and muscle and have been shown to reduce heart damage in animals following a heart attack. In future years, the team will also study the use of human cardiac stem cells grown from small pieces of heart tissue with the goal of delivering them back to patients following a heart attack.

*Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston - David Scadden, MD. The project will focus on the specialized microenvironments where stem cells reside, targeting them to achieve stem cell therapies and tissue regeneration. Emphasis will be placed on the blood stem cell with laboratory and clinical studies using proteins to alter the stem cell microenvironment in the bone marrow. Treatment trials of stem cell therapies for individuals with hematologic cancers such as lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and multiple myeloma will be the initial clinical studies.

NHLBI Web site: www.nhlbi.nih.gov
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Publication:Transplant News
Date:Jan 13, 2006
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