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CIRM awards $25M in grants for stem cell research

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A stem cell research breakthrough announced Wednesday is giving patients and their families new hope. Voters in California passed an initiative to fund the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which has given out billions of dollars to advance stem cell research.

Put simply, this latest study means shows that by shocking or stressing existing cells, science might be able to engineer them into any kind of cell we find in the human body -- and do so cheaply. It comes as good news to CIRM, which just happened to be awarding grants Wednesday in Berkeley.

CIRM gave away roughly $25 million Wednesday to researchers who plan to use stem cells as cures for patients with chronic illnesses and injuries. Michael Hinshaw, for instance, is in a phase one study of Huntington's Disease, a neurological disorder. "I can't even stand still talking to you now. You can see I'm shaking right now. That's the disease," Hinshaw explained to ABC7 News.

In Berkeley Wednesday was the hope -- a 10-year old state-mandated research organization that has seeded research with more than $1 billion. "We all firmly believe a number of these things will hit and every single thing that does is going to be a game changer," said CIRM President Jonathan Thomas.

Dr. Samantha Butler received funding Wednesday to use stem cells in research that might restore the sense of touch for people with paralysis. The latest study may make that easier. "Imagine not being able to touch your own child. Imagine not being able to touch your spouse, how devastating that would be," Butler said.

The key in this research is to make the changes to cells while they're still inside the human body, which would make stem cell treatments much more affordable.

One word of caution -- this new study looked at stem cells in mice, and experts say they're still a long way from human trials.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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berkeley, medical research, health, wayne freedman
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