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Information on Stem Cell Research

Stem Cells are unique in that they have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body, including brain cells, but they also retain the ability to produce more stem cells, a process termed self renewal. There are multiple types of stem cell, such as embryonic stem (ES) cells, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and adult or somatic stem cells.  While various stem cells can share similar properties there are differences as well. For example, ES cells are able to differentiate into any type of cell, whereas adult stem cells are more restricted in their potential.  The promise of all stem cells for use in future therapies is exciting, but significant technical hurdles remain that will only be overcome through years of intensive research.

The NINDS supports a diverse array of research on almost all stem cells, from studies of the basic biology of stem cells in the developing and adult mammalian brain to studies focusing on nervous system disorders such as ALS or spinal cord injury.  For example, investigators are looking at how ES cells can be used to derive dopamine-producing neurons that might alleviate symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease or how somatic stem cells can generate myelin producing oligodendrocytes for remyelination following acute and chronic brain injury.  Although there is much promise for using stem cells to treat neurological diseases in humans, there is much work to be done before stem cell-based therapies are ready for the clinic.

The NIH Stem Cell Information Web page provides additional information about stem cell research at NIH.  Also, see MedlinePlus for more health information regarding stem cells.

To learn more about investigational therapies, including stem cells, one can search the National Institutes of Health (NIH) online clinical trials database, which has information about federally and privately funded clinical research studies on a wide range of diseases and conditions.  You can access this database at to learn about the location of research studies in need of participants, as well as their purpose and criteria for patient participation. The NIH also maintains a clinical research website that has additional information and can be found here: NIH Clinical Research Trials and You

NINDS Repository
The NINDS also supports a repository that offers human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines for research on neurological disorders. A list of available cell lines can be found here: Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

NINDS Stem Cell Research on Campus
The Intramural Research Program of NINDS is one of the largest neuroscience research centers in the world. Investigators in the NINDS intramural program conduct research in the basic, translational, and clinical neurosciences. Their specific interests cover a broad range of neuroscience research including stem cell biology.  Listings of NINDS intramural researchers by laboratory affiliation and research areas are available online.

NIH Policy and Implementation
The Director of the NINDS, Dr. Story Landis is the Chair of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force, which was created to enable and accelerate the pace of stem cell research and to seek the advice of scientific leaders in stem cell research.  For comprehensive information on NIH policies related to stem cell research, visit the NIH Stem Cell Information web page. 

NIH Center for Regenerative Medicine (NIH CRM)
NIH CRM is a community resource that works to provide the infrastructure to support and accelerate the clinical translation of stem cell-based technologies, and to develop widely available resources to be used as standards in stem cell research. The Center provides services and information to both the intramural and extramural NIH communities that facilitate the use of stem cell technologies for therapeutic purposes and for screening efforts. Further information about NIH CRM can be found here: NIH Center for Regenerative Medicine

Funding Opportunities
NINDS supports a wide array of stem cell research, both basic and disease-related. Funding mechanisms supported by NINDS can be found here: Funding Mechanisms

Additionally, those interested in targeted funding solicitations can search the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. One can do key word searches for entries such as “neurological disease” and “stem cell” or “regenerative medicine.” A link to the NIH Guide can be found here: NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts

NINDS Contact Information
Timothy LaVaute, Ph.D.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Phone: 301-496-3765

Last Modified June 1, 2016