UCI News

Stem cell researcher gets CIRM grant to advance study of brain immune cells’ role in Alzheimer’s

A UCI stem cell researcher will receive a $1.15 million CIRM grant to advance the study of brain immune cells and their role in Alzheimer’s disease.

January 29, 2015

A UC Irvine Alzheimer’s disease researcher will receive $1.15 million to improve the ability to generate and study microglia from human pluripotent stem cells. Microglia serve as the primary immune cells within the brain and are strongly implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and many other brain disorders. Yet until recently, scientists have been unable to produce microglia from human stem cells. Building upon promising new results, Mathew Blurton-Jones will use the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine funding to generate human pluripotent stem cells with special “reporter” genes that make the cells glow as they become microglia. By using these cells, he believes, researchers will be able to streamline the process of producing microglia from patient skin samples and then use these cells to examine the role of microglia in Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders. Eventually, Blurton-Jones said, he and his colleagues at the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center will utilize the resulting human microglia to address key questions about the causes and potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Project collaborators are Edsel Abud and Matthew Inlay of UCI, Monica Carson of UC Riverside, and Colin Pouton of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. The funding is part of CIRM’s Tools & Technologies initiative.