Stem cells: Five years ago, this would have been impossible

A Q&A with Gary Smith, Ph.D., head of U-M’s human embryonic stem cell lab


Gary Smith, Ph.D., director of the U-M MStem Cell Lab, pulls a sample of stem cells, which are shared with researchers globally.

A recent New York Times article sheds light on the issue of discarding embryos that carry gene mutations. Families such as the one featured in the story who opt for in-vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and have embryos that they will not use due to genetic issues, are encouraged to donate them to the MStem Cell laboratory instead of discarding them.

Read more about the work the MStem Cell laboratory does below.

Five years ago, Michigan voters did something extraordinary for science. Today, Gary Smith, Ph.D.,and his team a the MStem Cell laboratory carry out the research that voters approved: coaxing human embryonic stem cells to grow and flourish so that medical researchers around the world can study diseases and normal cell function.

Smith sat down for an interview to explain what’s happening with this voter-approved work.

Q: So what exactly happens in this lab?

A: We derive and grow human embryonic stem cells, in a slow, meticulous process that takes Continue reading

Stand Up, on Friday, Sept. 7 at 8 PM

Why I Stand Up.

“The patient is the ultimate lab.” 

These words, spoken by the late Laura Ziskin, continue to resonate with all of us who receive funding from Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C). With these words Laura encapsulated a major challenge facing cancer researchers today: too many discoveries stay in the lab and fail to be translated into innovations in patient care.

In 2008, Laura, along with six other remarkable women from the entertainment industry, recognized this challenge and decided to tackle it head on by creating SU2C.

The funding commitments from SU2C are already having impact on moving research along. Through their Dream Team initiative, SU2C funds collaborative research that unites senior scientists across multiple institutions to rapidly advance new therapies into the clinic. Two researchers from the University of Michigan are part of SU2C Dream Teams –Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan leads the Prostate Cancer Dream Team and Cancer Center Director Dr. Max Wicha is part of the Breast Cancer Dream Team.

The second major funding commitment made by SU2C is their Innovative Research Grants Program.  With this initiative, SU2C targets investigators in earlier stages of their scientific careers and asks them to propose high-risk, high-reward research that has the potential to radically alter current thinking. Since 2009, SU2C has funded 26 Innovative Research Grants, including to two U-M scientists – me and Dr. Yali Dou, an associate professor of pathology. Continue reading