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Dr. Yerem Yeghiazarians Castle Foundation Grants Support Stem Cell Therapy Research
Yerem Yeghiazarians
Grants from the Harold K. L. Castle Foundation totaling $700,000 will boost pathbreaking UCSF stem cell researchers as they explore new treatments for heart disease and chronic back pain.

The largest private foundation based in Hawaii, the Castle Foundation was founded in 1962 by the late Harold Castle and is currently run by his grandsons. Grants from the Foundation are normally awarded to nonprofit organizations that benefit the people of that state. The high caliber of stem cell research at UCSF attracted the Foundation's attention, however, and it took the rare step of funding an institution located outside Hawaii.

A $500,000 grant will help fund the first five years of the Cardiac Stem Cell Translational Development Program, led by Yerem Yeghiazarians, MD. Investigators in this new program are exploring whether stem cells from a patient's bone marrow or blood can be injected into damaged regions of the heart to grow healthy tissue. To make this "translational leap" from laboratory to bedside, researchers must answer myriad questions, including:
  • What is the best source of stem cells for therapeutic use?
  • How many stem cells are needed to treat patients with heart problems?
  • Can stem cell therapies become a viable alternative to heart transplantation?
"We are just beginning to understand the power of stem cell therapy," Yeghiazarians explains. "As we learn more, the tremendous potential of this therapy comes into focus. The possibilities are astounding."

A $200,000 award will provide momentum for UCSF's Orthopaedic Stem Cell Therapy Program, an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, scientists, and engineers working to develop stem cell therapies for patients with chronic back pain. Program Director Jeffrey C. Lotz, PhD, expects that innovations in intervertebral disc biomechanics, biology, and spine surgery will reveal ways to stimulate regeneration of disc tissue using adult stem cells. The Castle Foundation grant will enable his team to build on its successes in the laboratory in anticipation of human clinical trials.

"The development of a new, minimally invasive treatment for back pain is overdue," says Lotz. "Surgery disrupts the lives of patients and its outcomes remain disappointing for many, with only about 60 percent finding relief. Physicians are realizing that stem cell therapy may present a simpler and more effective alternative."

"There is great promise that research being conducted today will result in widespread clinical practice in the not too distant future," adds spine surgeon and research collaborator David Bradford, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery.

To learn more about supporting cardiac stem cell research at UCSF, contact Michael Chinnavaso at 415/502-5872 or For more information on giving to the Orthopaedic Stem Cell Therapy Program, contact Candler Gibson at 415/476-3403 or
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