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$10 Million Gift Establishes Helen L. & Martin S. Kimmel Center for Stem Cell Biology

A new Center for Stem Cell Biology has been established at NYU Medical Center. Named in honor of two NYU Medical Center trustees, Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel, whose generous $10 million donation made it possible, the new center will establish a world-class, multidisciplinary research center focusing on the basic biology of stem cells in animal models, a vital platform for the eventual application of stem cells to treat a host of human diseases.

Ruth Lehmann, Ph.D., the Julius Raynes Professor of Developmental Genetics and a leader in developmental genetics, will be the Director of the new Center for Stem Cell Center. She is widely known for her pioneering work on germ cells, which give rise to egg and sperm, during early development of the embryo. By studying aberrant development of mutant germ cell lines in the fruit fly, her research has laid the foundation for understanding the potential causes of testicular germ-line cancers and sterility.

The Co-Director of the center will be Dan Littman, M.D., Ph.D., the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Molecular Immunology and one of the nation's foremost molecular immunologists. Last year Dr. Littman was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors accorded to a scientist, in recognition of his achievements in original research.

Under the leadership of Drs. Lehmann and Littman, The Center for Stem Cell Biology will link scientists and laboratory groups at NYU School of Medicine and New York University who are working in developmental genetics, RNA biology, structural biology and cancer biology, crucial areas for advancing the understanding and application of stem cells to the treatment of human disease. In addition, new faculty specializing in these areas will be recruited to augment already ongoing work.

The new Center will be located in the laboratories of the new Joan and Joel Smilow Research Center at NYU School of Medicine, which will open later this year, the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, and other research buildings at the School of Medicine. Overall, it will offer an exciting venue for scientists to explore the enormous potential of stem cells.

Scientists throughout the School of Medicine, including Tung-Tien (Henry) Sun, Ph.D., the Rudolf L. Baer Professor of Dermatology and Professor of Pharmacology and Urology, will be members of the Center for Stem Cell Biology. Dr. Sun has been a leader in stem cell biology research. He and a colleague discovered the source of stem cells for the skin, hair, and cornea, and a transplant procedure based on their cornea research has revolutionized the treatment for severely damaged corneas.

NYU scientists are making major contributions to the understanding of stem cell biology using animal models such as the mouse, zebrafish, and the fruit fly. Many genes found in these organisms have human counterparts, raising the possibility that studies in these animals will lead ultimately to a far better understanding of human stem cell biology.

Stem cells have the incredible ability, under the right conditions, to morph into nearly any other cell type of cells, regardless of where they originated. Scientists envision a time when this unusual talent will provide the seed for a fresh crop of new, healthy cells of any organ, which can then be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, stroke, and paralyzing spinal cord injuries. However many researchers believe much more needs to be learned about the basic biology of stem cells before their therapeutic promise can be realized. The Center for Stem Cell Biology will help fill the gap in the understanding of the basic biology of stem cells and their application to human disease.

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