The University of Michigan's first human embryonic stem cell line will be placed on the U.S. National Institutes of Health's registry, making the cells available for federally funded research. The university is among just a handful of U.S. universities creating human embryonic stem cell lines. There are only 147 stem cell lines currently available on the registry.
The line, known as UM4-6, is a genetically normal line, derived in October 2010 from a cluster of about 30 cells removed from a donated five-day-old embryo.
"This is significant, because acceptance of these cells on the registry demonstrates our attention to details of proper oversight, consenting and following of NIH guidelines established in 2009," says Gary Smith, Ph.D., who derived the line and also is co-director of the University of Michigan (UM) Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies, part of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute. "It now makes the line available to researchers who can apply for federal funding to use it in their work; this is an important step."
The line was made possible by Michigan voters' November 2008 approval of a state constitutional amendment permitting scientists in Michigan to derive embryonic stem cell lines using surplus embryos from fertility clinics or embryos with genetic abnormalities and not suitable for implantation.
"We envision in the future that investigators will be able to use the genetically normal embryonic stem cell lines like UM4-6, together with disease-specific embryonic stem cell lines, as a model system to investigate what causes these diseases and come up with treatments," says Sue O'Shea, professor of cell and developmental biology and co-director of the Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies.
UM also has submitted two other human embryonic stem cells lines to the national registry. Both are disease-specific, the first carrying the genetic defect that causes hemophilia B and the other carrying the gene responsible for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a hereditary neurological disorder.
Smith expects to soon submit eight additional human embryonic stem lines for consideration on the national registry, including three genetically normal and five new disease-specific lines.