The Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative (Tri-SCI) is a research collaboration among Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medical College. The initiative was established in 2005 with a $50 million gift from The Starr Foundation, a New York City–based organization that has long supported medical research, healthcare, human needs, and educational programs. In early 2012, The Starr Foundation renewed its support for the Tri-SCI with a new $50 million gift that provides vital funding for stem cell biology.
Tri-SCI researchers are investigating the properties of embryonic stem cells (ESCs), which have the potential to differentiate into any cell type in the body, and adult stem cells, which are found in some tissues and can give rise to a variety of cell types. They are also conducting research using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These iPSCs are adult cells reprogrammed to an embryonic stem-cell-like state by being forced to express factors important for maintaining the “stemness” of ESCs. Human iPSCs express stem cell markers and are capable of generating cells characteristic of all three germ layers.
These studies are opening new avenues for understanding a range of health conditions, including developmental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer. The knowledge gained through this research is also laying the groundwork for the design of regenerative therapies, which exploit some of the properties of stem cells to replenish tissues that have been lost or destroyed by illness or injury.