UC Davis Health scientists are pursuing a new approach to repairing the birth defect that causes spina bifida. $5.66 million in research grant funding from The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will allow a UCD research team to continue its work using stem cells and a biomaterial scaffold to fix the defect in the womb.
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Spina bifida is a condition in which the neural tube fails to close somewhere along the spine. When the neural tube doesn’t close all the way, the backbone that protects the spinal cord doesn’t form and close as it should. This often results in damage to the spinal cord and nerves. Spina bifida can cause physical and intellectual disabilities that range from mild to severe.
Each year in the U.S. about 1,645 babies are born with spina bifida. That’s roughly 3 out of every 10,000 live births. It is the most common cause of lifelong paralysis.
This latest CIRM funding will allow the UC Davis team to perform final testing and preparations necessary for FDA approval to start a human clinical trial. The current standard of care is surgery, but even this leaves almost 60% of children unable to walk independently. Diana Farmer MD, and Aijun Wang PhD at U.C. Davis will use mesenchymal stem cells, taken from a donor placenta, and place them on a form of synthetic scaffold over the injury site in the womb. Tests in animals show this approach was able to repair the defect and prevent paralysis.
Maria T. Millan, MD, President & CEO of CIRM was quoted in a recent CIRM press release as saying, “Spina bifida is a devastating condition for babies born with this disorder and the families who care for them. CIRM has funded this important work from its earliest stages and we are committed to working with Dr. Farmer’s team to moving this work to the stage where it can be tested in patients.”
“There were many times of frustration, many times when cell types we explored and worked with didn’t work,” Farmer said in an article for UC Davis Health Newsroom. “But it’s the patients, seeing them, talking to them and working with them, that keeps me motivated to do the science, to keep persevering.”
“This work is so fulfilling, and we are grateful to CIRM for enabling it to continue,” added Wang in the same article. Wang is also the co-director of the university’s Surgical Bioengineering Laboratory and a principal investigator at the UCD Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine. “Because this is a rare disease, funding can be very difficult. California’s stem cell agency has been a perfect partner in helping bring our approach, blending stem cell therapy and tissue engineering, together to help these patients and their families.”About The Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine (IPRM):
The IPRM is a collaborative initiative of the UC Davis School of Medicine and the Shriners Hospital. It occupies more than 27,000 square feet of laboratory space at Shriners on the UC Davis Medical Center campus in Sacramento. The Institute carries out basic as well as translational/clinical research, with the aim of helping children with spinal cord dysfunction, orthopaedic disorders and burns.
Scientific supply companies wishing to display and demonstrate their products to UC Davis Medical Center researchers should plan on participating at the Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. vendor fair on Wednesday January 23, 2019. Visit the link below to learn more about this event or call (530) 272-6675.
Researchers attend for free!
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