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Stem cell research-real cutting edge

At SUNY Upstate Medical University, conducting research using mice is common. What is uncommon is the Human Stem Cell Processing Laboratory and new imaging system. This puts Upstate in the forefront of stem cell research, said Dr. Gerold Feuer, director of the university's Center for Humanized SCID Mouse Models.

"The new system is unique to our campus. It will have major scientific impact," Feuer said. He explains:

"The imaging system is state-of-the-art stem cell research, injecting human stem cells into an immune deficient mouse. This is a mouse version of the bubble boy. You can inject cells and then they develop into a rudimentary human defense system. Now you can infect them (mice) with a variety of human viral infections and ask questions -- how viruses cause disease. A lot of viruses cause human leukemia; we can test them in our mouse model."

Adult T cell leukemia, Burkitt's lymphoma and primary effusion lymphoma will be studied. Other infections and diseases to be studied in humanized mice include chicken pox, malaria, hemorrhagic and encephalitic viruses and Kaposi's sarcoma herpes virus.

"This understanding may give us a better insight into ways to prevent debilitating and life-threatening diseases from occurring and could lead to new discoveries that stem the progression of, or actually manage or cure disease," Feuer said. Also making use of the facility will be researchers using retinal stem cells to study retinal regeneration.

Feuer credits Governor Eliot Spitzer's interest in stem cell research to assist with funding the project. Approximately $450,000 from New York State and SUNY Upstate has been awarded.

"SUNY Upstate is one of only a few institutions nationwide to have the expertise and capacity to conduct a specialized type of stem cell research that uses genetically engineered mice that lack immune systems. This imaging system will further our studies of the immune system and at the same time allow us to gain a better understanding of how stem cells work," Feuer said.

Upstate researchers collaborate often with others in the United States and Europe through the Internet and professional meetings. "The new capability, Feuer said, "puts Syracuse in the spotlight."

He has been involved with such research since the early 1990s in California and has been associated with Upstate since 1996.

Dr. Feurer is associate professor of microbiology and immunology, director of the Center for Humanized SCID Mouse Models and Stem Cell Processing Laboratory at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

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