Carle, UI, iCyt teaming up to better isolate adult stem cells

Carle, UI, iCyt teaming up to better isolate adult stem cells

CHAMPAIGN – Carle Foundation, the University of Illinois and iCyt Mission Technology are preparing to join forces to use iCyt's technology to isolate adult stem cells for research purposes.

"We're focusing on several areas, " said Larry Schook, who focuses on regenerative biology and tissue engineering at the UI's Institute for Genomic Biology.

The group hopes to isolate adult stem cells from bone marrow for use in treating cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and cancer and in developing new bone tissue, Schook said.

The researchers will work in a lab operated by Carle and the institute in space inside the iCyt building.

"We'll be using their (cell-sorting) instrument to benchmark against other approaches for the isolation of adult stem cells, and we'll be developing a laboratory to do research," Schook said.

"We wanted to be close to iCyt so we could work with their engineers and their designers to make improvements, trying to get the clinical applications developed," he added.

"This is a major first for the campus and community, but it's also important nationally," Schook said. "We're linking transforming technology from iCyt with bioengineering at the genomic institute and with direct clinical outcomes at Carle and Northwestern."

The institute has been a partner on a project with a stem cell research group at Northwestern's medical school, he said.

"This should be an incredible opportunity for us to work with Carle," Schook said, adding he expects the work to be a two- or three-year project.

Dr. James Leonard, president of the Carle Foundation, said the project could end up bringing new M.D./Ph.D.s into the community. He said Carle already has a memorandum of understanding with the institute to support the research efforts of Dr. Michael Goldwasser, whose interests include regeneration of bone tissue.

For Carle, Leonard said, the collaboration could develop "technologies that might be helpful to our patients."

"As you look at what's going on with adult stem cells – not embryonic stem cells – this is an important area to begin work on, to get familiar with how adult stem cell research could contribute to patients' health over time, " Leonard said. "It could be five to 10 years before we might begin to see something applicable."

The collaborators hope to develop a process in which more adult stem cells can be produced, isolated more quickly and made more stable so they can be shipped to researchers working on Parkinson's disease and different neurological and spinal cord problems, he said.

"What iCyt produces is a machine that essentially takes blood, sorts it out and pulls out adult stem cells. Currently, that's a very laborious process and you get small amounts of stem cells. We hope that with our cooperation and Larry providing the research side, adult stem cells will be more readily available and we can help supply other researchers," Leonard said.

Schook said the institute has gotten about $1 million in funding from the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute for a project to isolate adult stem cells from bone marrow, blood and fat.

Leonard said Carle expects to contribute about $250,000 to the collaboration.

"This is very unique," he said. "Other people are thinking about it, but we're leading the pack on this."