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UC Davis Stem Cell Program

UC Davis Stem Cell Program

Welcome to the UC Davis stem cell program

For patients and families suffering from chronic disease or injury, the promise of stem cell therapies offers great hope. UC Davis is a leader in advancing that promising goal. It has brought together physicians, research scientists, biomedical engineers and a range of other experts and collaborative partners to establish the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, a facility supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The new $62 million institute is located on the university’s Sacramento campus, where collaborative, team-oriented science is working to advance breakthrough discoveries and bring stem cell therapies and cures to patients everywhere. It benefits from being on a campus near a nationally-designated cancer center, a renowned neurodevelopmental institute, state-of-the-art imaging and biophotonics programs, and an academic medical center that is at the forefront of advanced patient care. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the California National Primate Research Center, both of which are in nearby Davis, also offer unique research benefits for UC Davis scientists.

UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures

The institute’s facilities include primary laboratories, a shared-vector core, microscopy and cell sorters, space for academic, postdoctoral and administrative offices, along with conference rooms and a proposed lecture hall.

The institute also is home to one of the largest, most advanced, academic Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facilities in the nation. With approximately 7,000 square feet of space, this GMP laboratory contains a suite of six specially designed rooms that enable researchers to safely process cellular and gene therapies for clinical trials. The facility is used by both UC Davis researchers and stem cell investigators from throughout the state and beyond.

Institute Goals

The UC Davis stem cell program brings together resources from across the university to ensure that bench research – the work done in laboratories – can be translated successfully into clinical treatments.

With an ability to repair damaged tissue and develop into specialized cells and organs, stem cells will have a major impact in medicine and health care. Research into stem and progenitor cell therapies is in full motion throughout the university. Scientists are exploring and testing different techniques and approaches in laboratories so that new and safe therapies are available to patients. This translation of basic scientific discoveries into novel therapies and clinical practices is a hallmark of research at UC Davis

Disease Teams

Stem cell research

One of the keys to the stem cell program is the integration of basic science and clinical medicine. Stem cell researchers, for example, are collaborating with vascular surgeons in preparation for clinical trials involving peripheral artery disease. The insights gained from a surgeon's knowledge of the vascular system are invaluable for the basic scientist who is investigating how to restore blood flow to a patient's limbs using stem cell therapy. Novel stem cell therapies to treat heart attacks and to mend non-healing bones have already been initiated at UC Davis.

Similarly, ophthalmologists, neurologists, oncologists and other specialists are all working with research scientists to develop new ideas and pathways for stem cell therapies. Bringing together disease-specific teams that include a full range of clinical knowledge and laboratory experience can be an important catalyst for stem cell discoveries and breakthroughs.

UC Davis scientists have formed stem cell “disease teams” in more than a dozen important areas:

    Stem cell research
    Differentiated neural stem cells. Photo courtesy Dr. Paul Knoepfler

  • Peripheral vascular disease (preventing amputation)
  • Hearing loss (inner ear hair cell repair)
  • Bladder disease (repair and regeneration)
  • Osteoporosis (bone repair and cartilage regeneration)
  • Eye degeneration (vision regeneration)
  • Heart disease (treating heart attack and replacing faulty valves)
  • Kidney disease (repair and regeneration)
  • Liver disease (repair and regeneration)
  • Lung disease (repair and regeneration)
  • Neurodegenerative disease (Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s)
  • Burns and non-healing ulcers (skin repair)
  • Tumor stem cells (to prevent relapse)
  • Blood disorders, leukemia, sickle cell anemia
  • Immune system disorders, HIV

Each of these teams is comprised of leading researchers and clinicians who are exploring the most promising approaches that can lead to the greatest advances in improving patient health. A balanced stem cell research portfolio, including both adult and pluripotent stem cell research, allows UC Davis scientists to quickly adapt to new discoveries in this ever-changing field.  In fact, many of our current studies are aimed at comparing various types of stem cells to determine which are the safest and most effective.

Clinical Trials

Adult stem cells are the "paramedics of the body.” In animal models, they have been shown to move rapidly into areas of tissue damage to enhance repair, revascularization and blood flow, while reducing inflammation and scarring. UC Davis is working toward or has already initiated clinical trials using adult stem cells to treat several conditions, including retinal occlusion, heart attack, peripheral vascular disease, bone repair and Huntington’s disease.