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Aileen Anderson, Ph.D. & Brian Cummings, Ph.D.

By Linda MelonePublished: November 01, 2012

Associate professors, UC Irvine
Hot factor: Their research has led to clinical trials using stem cells to treat cervical 
spinal cord injury

In July it was announced that the efforts to begin human clinical trials using stem cells to treat cervical spinal cord injury in the U.S. received $20 million in funding from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).
According to the announcement by UCI, the award will be shared by Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings, associate professors of physical medicine and rehabilitation at UC Irvine’s Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, and Nobuko Uchida of StemCells Inc. in Newark, Calif. Anderson and Cummings proved that transplanting human neural stem cells – discovered and developed by StemCells Inc. – into rodents with thoracic spinal cord injury could restore mobility. The CIRM award will fund the collection of data necessary to establish human clinical trials in the U.S.
Anderson discovered her passion for spinal cord research by accident, she says.

“A mentor of mine in graduate school became involved with the Christopher Reeve Foundation and the International Research Consortium on Spinal Cord Injury, which was newly formed at the time” she says. “He suggested I attend a meeting on spinal cord injury.”

At the time, Anderson was involved in Alzheimer’s research. That changed when she attended the meeting. “It was amazing,” Anderson says. “It made me change my research to spinal cord injury, which is what I still do today.”

“Stem cell research is the newest frontier in science,” says Cummings. “So it presents the greatest challenges and the greatest potential for new discoveries. I love the collaborative effort and the ability to work with my wife – there’s a lot to love.”

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