Georgia has an impressive academic and clinical research history in biomedical science. In 1998 physicians at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (in partnership with Emory University) performed the first allogenic umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant on a child for sickle cell disease, resulting in a cure. To attract technology industry professionals, the Georgia Research Alliance creates a collaborative network of researchers. Georgia promotes nonembryonic stem cell and related research, and researchers are performing work on National Institutes of Health-approved human embryonic stem cells to discover treatments for human disease.
No federal legislation in the United States regulates stem cell research except the executive order to not allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research in cell lines created after August 9, 2001; each state is responsible for determining policy, regulation, and funding. Georgia legislators considered and failed to pass bills in 2006 and 2007 regarding umbilical cord blood banking and stem cell research on nonembryonic sourced stem cells.
Georgia’s current policy comes from an April 14, 2006, executive order to create the Governor’s Commission for New Born Umbilical Cord Blood Research and Medical Treatment to establish statewide cord blood banking networks and promote nonembryonic stem cell research, though not providing state funding for this research. Public funding is available through competitive grants from federal sources, such as the National Institutes of Health, and state research funds, as well as private foundations and biotech companies.
The Georgia Research Alliance is a private, nonprofit corporation begun in 1990 to enhance Georgia’s economy through collaboration by academia, business, and government to encourage technology research and development by attracting top scientists and fostering new business development. Funding is provided by the state, universities, and private sources. The alliance’s four areas of focus include eminent scholars, research laboratories and equipment, national centers for research and innovation, and technology transfer.
The research universities affiliated with the alliance that have researchers focused on stem cell research include the University of Georgia, the Medical College of Georgia, Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. With past investments of over $400 million, the alliance has attracted over 50 eminent scholars, 17 of whom specialize in stem cell research.
The Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia conducts research on National Institutes of Health-approved human stem cell lines for translation into clinical therapy to alleviate human diseases. The center promotes cross-discipline and multi-institutional research within the Georgia Research Alliance with the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State, the Medical College of Georgia, and Emory University. The center increases knowledge, facility, and technology resources to gain external funding. In addition to research, the center provides education to national/international researchers, graduate and undergraduate classes taught by the faculty, and high school students interested in biomedical science careers through the young scholars program.
The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Workshop at the University of Georgia includes four days of hands-on laboratory education and lectures for participants to learn about innovations and the techniques for working with human embryonic stem cell lines. The laboratory portion includes how to propagate, maintain, and cryopreserve undifferentiated stem cells, as well as differentiation techniques using feeders and karyotyping of stem cells. Human Embryonic Stem Cells Symposia are held in conjunction with the workshop to discuss the latest news in stem cell research, tissue engineering, and clinical applications for treating human disease.
Steven Stice, director of the center and professor at the University of Georgia, in collaboration with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, created a kit containing neural cells grown from human embryonic stem cells to detect a broad spectrum of chemical weapons. The device is designed to detect changes in cell activity.
The Stem Cell/Restorative Program at the Medical College of Georgia uses adult stem cells for the treatment of brain injuries. The current studies are in animal models, with the hope of translating them into clinical therapy for adults and children with cerebral palsy and stroke, using adult stem cells.
The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience opened at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1995. Researchers at the institute enjoy collaborative relationships across academic disciplines. The institute fosters partnerships or multiple-university research in regenerative medicine and stem cell research.
The Center for the Engineering of Living Tissues, established in 1998, has a mission to find innovations using tissue engineering to develop medical implants and address issues relating to organ/tissue transplant. The center partners the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Emory University School of Medicine, forming a team made up of members of both universities.
The Biomedical Research and Training Program is multidisciplinary, involving graduate and undergraduate programs in the biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, and physics. One of Clark Atlanta University’s researchers is an eminent scholar in the Georgia Research Alliance and performs stem cell research regarding the proliferation, differentiation, and control of human reproductive cells.
Emory University in Atlanta has roots dating back to the 1830s as a teaching institution. Today, Emory offers undergraduate and graduate courses and has a medical school. Educational and research preparation and opportunities are available through the graduate division of biological and biomedical sciences and the biochemistry and cell and developmental biology program.