January 16, 2008
Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Irina Conboy has been awarded a $2.25 million research grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).
Conboy, who hopes embryonic stem cells can rejuvenate aging muscles, was one of 22 recent Ph.D.s and M.D.s chosen by the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, the governing board of the institute, to share $54 million in funding designed to boost the work of the next generation of stem-cell scientists.
Conboy hopes to use embryonic stem cells to rejuvenate aging tissues. Her research has focused on a major problem of aging – the deterioration of organs and tissues because the body fails to adequately repair normal damage.
“When you are old, you start falling apart, plus your ability to regenerate tissue declines,” Conboy said. “The goal of this work is to restore the second part. We will still be falling apart, but our ability to repair ourselves will be rejuvenated, and we will be similar to a young person.”
Conboy got her idea from her continuing efforts to understand why old stem cells residing in old organs fail to repair damaged tissue even though they have the capacity to do so. She and colleagues reported in the journal Nature in 2005 that if young and old mice share blood, the young blood rejuvenates the responses of old stem cells. Recent work from Conboy’s laboratory shows that aged or pathological tissue appears to produce substances that inhibit young stem cells. Promisingly, the same work uncovered that embryonic stem cells are capable of neutralizing these unfortunate effects of aging and likely produce substances that encourage the repair of even old tissues, such as skeletal muscle.
Read the full story in the Berkeleyan .