Scientists working at the UCSB Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering have recently begun to utilize new facilities on campus to perform research to advance the field of regenerative medicine.

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A researcher at a CIRM 1 workstation pipette transfers cell medium between cultures. The new facilities, located within Bio II, seek to provide scientists with more room to work on stem cells.

The new facilities, located within the Biological Sciences II building, were built using a $2.2 million shared laboratory grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and $400 thousand from UCSB, according to Dennis Clegg, professor of biology at UCSB and Co-Director of Strategy, Planning and Operations for the Center. CIRM was established in 2004 as a result of Proposition 71.

The facility — known as “CIRM 1,” since it was the first such project funded by CIRM for the Bio II building — provides researchers with incubators, fume hoods, microscopes, refrigerators, centrifuges and other tools for conducting studies pertaining to stem cells.

The facility is kept in a semi-clean room state using UV light sterilization and ethanol sprays in order to prevent any contamination of the cell cultures.

The laboratory contains a user area for all participants of the stem cell labs, although according to Sherry Hikita, Laboratory Director of the CSCBE, the laboratory equipment could theoretically be used for research pertaining to all types of cells. Researchers can sign up for time at the workstations, but they must first go through training in order to be able to use the labs.

According to Hikita, the new facilities are a significant improvement from the previous stem cell laboratory.

“I think the take-home message is that going from a temporary lab with two work stations to a renovated lab with six workstations and 1,400 square feet, will significantly influence the progress of stem cell research at UCSB,” Hikita said.

Stem cell research has been ongoing at UCSB for some time. UCSB is a CIRM Type 3 facility, which means it provides specialized training to graduate and postdoctoral students. Stem cell-related studies on campus include, but are not limited to, creating treatments for macular degeneration, researching methods to induce pluripotency and determining how stem cells differentiate.

The next project, which is currently under construction, is CIRM 2, which is funded by a $3.1 million Major Facilities grant from CIRM and $3.2 million from the UCSB campus. According to Clegg, the purpose of the CIRM 2 facilities is to make more room for additional faculty to come to UCSB for stem cell research.

“[The purpose of CIRM 2 is] to build new research labs for new faculty hires so as to expand and strengthen stem cell research on campus,” Clegg said in an e-mail.

According to Clegg, the CIRM 2 construction is expected to be complete by June of 2011.