Focus on Stem Cell Research

Stem cells possess the unique ability to differentiate into many distinct 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 types of stem cells share similar properties there are differences as well. For example, ES cells and iPS 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.

NINDS supports a diverse array of research on 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. Other examples of NINDS funded research include using iPS cells to derive dopamine-producing neurons that might alleviate symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease, and using ES cells to generate cerebral organoids to model Zika virus infection. To search the complete list of stem cell research projects funded by NIH please go to NIH RePORTER. The NIH’s total investment in SCI can be found in categorical spending.

For information on NINDS clinical trials please see the Clinical Research section, or search


Funding Opportunities

A complete, searchable list of funding opportunities is available under Funding. Please be aware that if you plan to request $500,000 or more in direct costs you must contact the appropriate Program Director at least 6 weeks before submission to obtain approval. For more information please see the eRA User Guide ($500K requests).

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