UC Davis Health receives $5.6M grant for stem cell therapies for spina bifida research: 7 notes


The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Oakland awarded a $5.6 million research grant to UC Davis Health researchers Diana Farmer, MD, and Aijun Wang, PhD, for their work on stem cell therapies for spina bifida.

Here are seven things to know:

1. Dr. Farmer serves as the chair of Sacramento, Calif.-based UC Davis Health's department of surgery. She and Dr. Wang will use the funding to continue their decade-long research efforts on spinal cord injuries and nerve regeneration.

2. Prior to his appointment at UC Davis, Dr. Wang studied nerve regeneration, scaffolding and stem cells. During his postdoctoral research fellowship at UC Berkley, Dr. Wang connected with Dr. Farmer, who was a surgeon at UC San Francisco.

3. "Dr. Farmer is a fantastic surgeon — she's been interested in [spina bifida] for a long time, and with her coming from the clinical side and me coming from the biomedical-engineering side, it's a great combination," Dr. Wang said.

4. Dr. Farmer recruited Dr. Wang for her spina bifida research when she went to UC Davis. The team focused their research on stem cell therapies and whether they could provide further benefits to babies with spina bifida while still in utero.

5. Their research used stem cells from donor placentas and involved placing them on bioengineered scaffolds to help cover and close the wounds of fetuses with spina bifida to prevent as much damage as possible to their spinal cords.

6. They tested their proposed therapy on small animals with surgically mimicked conditions, which demonstrated positive outcomes.

7. Drs. Farmer and Wang are interested in researching this therapy for use after birth, having seen positive results from English bulldog puppies born with spina bifida that they treated with stem cells.

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