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SoCal gets first U.S. stem cell center

September 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Southern California breaks ground on the first stem cell research center of its kind in the U.S.The groundbreaking took place in Lincoln Heights on Wednesday.

It will be the first of 12 such facilities in Southern California.

Research will focus on embryonic stem cells. The results from the research to be performed at the center could help children like Jordan Klein. Jordan was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 11.

"The body's own immune system destroys part of the pancreas. And you can die suddenly from it. You can go into a coma," said Jordan's father Robert Klein, Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Medical advances have helped Klein's son survive. This center, he believes, could lead to a cure.

Through Prop 71, USC's Keck School of Medicine received funds from the state. The school also received a private gift from philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. The school received a total $80 million.

The center's new director says they plan to do work that may put the medical community on the verge of curing a major cause of blindness.

"We would like to push towards clinical trials within three to five years," said Martin Pera, director of the center.

Actor Christopher Reeve died before his spinal cord injury could be treated with embryonic stems cells, which can turn bad cells into healthy cells.

Parkinson's disease, which is afflicting actor Michael J. Fox, is another target of research.

This center is just the start of several similar projects in Southern California. The aim is to create a biomedical corridor in the Southland that can attract top notch scientists and inject the economy with new vigor.

"Create lots of jobs and make California known as being number one in this area of important research," said philanthropist Eli Broad.

The center could be completed within two years. However, for those who are ill and disabled, it can't be done fast enough.

"You can't abandon your child. I mean, you have to find some way to rescue them from blindness and kidney loss and a life ending in amputation. There has to be an answer," said Klein.

 

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