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Stanford researchers receive NIH grants for innovative, high-stakes projects

The National Institutes of Health has chosen three Stanford researchers as winners of this year's New Innovator Awards, which are given to creative investigators at an early stage of their careers.

Among the winners is pediatric endocrinologist Brian Feldman, MD, PhD. Feldman will use the $1.5 million award to study how hormones influence the fate of maturing stem cells. According to a release:

His research on the basic biology of this relationship could lead to new therapies for a variety of diseases. In the long term, Feldman said, "We're trying to design new tools that will allow us to regulate stem cells in vivo. It might be possible to redirect stem cells towards more healthful lineages, or even induce their regenerative properties, without taking them out of a person." He imagines possibly heading off obesity by diverting stem cells away from the pathway that leads to fat cells, or treating muscle-wasting conditions by cueing stem cells to form more muscle.

In addition, the NIH selected two other research projects at the School of Medicine for Transformative R01 Awards, which support inherently risky projects with the potential to profoundly affect a broad area of biomedical research.

Marius Wernig, MD, and Thomas Sudhof, MD, PhD, received funding to determine if a new technique to transform mouse skin cells into neurons with the application of just three genes can be used on skin cells from humans. This study will focus on neuropsychiatric diseases thought to arise from problems at the synapse - the space between neurons that signals must traverse to move from one cell to the next.

Gary Peltz, MD, PhD, will use the grant to study the effects of common drugs, including cholesterol medications, on mice with livers grown from human liver cells. Findings could provide insight into why people's responses to the same drug sometimes vary.

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