Center to advance tissue regeneration, stem cell discoveries

Asrar Malik

The Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine “will use a team-oriented, multidisciplinary approach,” says Asrar Malik, head of pharmacology.

The College of Medicine launched a new center that focuses on understanding tissue regeneration and pioneering future developments in stem cell biology as a means to repair diseased organs and tissues.

The opening of the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine was commemorated Monday with a symposium on stem cell and regenerative medicine.

The center will partner with colleges and departments across the University of Illinois System.

Researchers in the new center will investigate the molecular signals that drive stem cells to mature into different cell types, such as blood, heart and blood vessel cells. The center will also study the epigenetic regulation of stem cells; determine the best approaches to transplant engineered cells, tissues and organs; and look for ways to efficiently produce the regenerative cells needed for novel treatments.

“The center will use a team-oriented, multidisciplinary approach that incorporates experts in biochemistry, biophysics, bioengineering and the clinical sciences to investigate stem cell biology and tissue regeneration,” said Asrar Malik, the Schweppe Family Distinguished Professor and head of pharmacology, who is guiding the effort.

A search has begun to recruit a director and additional faculty members, he said.

The current program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine includes seven faculty members, most within the department of pharmacology, who together have more than $10 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

““The intent in the next few years will be to carry out additional recruitments with other departments, to build from this interdisciplinary foundation and capitalize on our strengths,” Malik said.

Three new faculty members in pharmacology have joined the center in the last two years. Owen Tamplin studies stem cells in zebrafish; Kostandin Pajcini investigates the role of stem cells in the development of leukemia; and Jae-Won Shin engineers stem cells and tissues with an eye toward transplantation.

As the only dedicated stem cell and regenerative medicine center in Chicago with a focus on basic biology and translational science, it will affirm UIC’s leadership role in these fields and help attract additional talent, Malik said.

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