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Stem Cell Advocates Cite Personal Connection in Advancing Field

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  • Stem Cell Advocates Cite Personal Connection in Advancing Field

    Stem Cell Advocates Cite Personal Connection in Advancing Field

    The opening of the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building on Feb. 9 signified a major turning point in UCSF’s stem cell research program and represented a personal triumph for individuals who played a key role in the evolution of the promising field.

    For Robert Klein, chair of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) - the state agency created by 7 million voters to administer the $3 billion tax-payer supported fund for stem cell research - UCSF holds special significance. His son Jordan has type 1, or juvenile-onset, diabetes that can destroy the eyelet cells in the pancreas and lead to blindness, kidney loss and amputations.

    “Back in those days in the mid-1970s no one thought recumbent DNA would ever lead to any human products,” said Klein at the dedication ceremony at the Parnassus campus. But it was at UCSF where “scientists announced the antecedent critical discovery that led to artificial human insulin that keeps my son alive every day.”

    Now Klein hopes stem cells will help cure diabetes, a disease that affects 25.8 million children and adults in the United States.

    “Stem cell research science, built on the early work of UC San Francisco doctor Gail Martin, who indentified stem cells in mice, is building the foundation for this whole new field,” said Klein. “It is this research that brings us the possibility of changing the future of human suffering.”

    Importance of Patients' Perspectives
    Jeff Sheehy, director for communications at the UCSF AIDS Research Institute, has served as CIRM board member as a patient advocate for HIV/AIDS since its inception in 2004. While he supported the campaign for proposition 71 in 2004 which established CIRM and devoted $3 billion to human embryonic stem-cell studies, at the time HIV wasn’t considered a major target of stem cell research.