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Stem cells: New stem cell PhD program at Stanford University

May 05, 2011|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
  • Stanford University in Palo Alto is launching a new PhD program in stem cell biology that could be the first of its kind.
Stanford University in Palo Alto is launching a new PhD program in stem cell… (Ryan Anson / AFP/Getty Images )

Stem cells, and their potential to help scientists understand and cure ills including diabetes, cancer and heart disease — have been capturing attention among researchers, not to mention the general public, for years.

Now they're beginning to enjoy special status at American universities, too. On April 29, the faculty senate at Stanford University voted to approve the creation of what university officials believe is the first PhD program devoted completely to stem cells.

Part of the Stanford Medical School, the doctoral program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine will encourage students to pursue coursework in a number of disciplines — everything from biology to engineering to business, said Theo Palmer, an associate professor of neurosurgery and co-director of the new program, in a news release. "Incoming students were voicing frustration that the existing PhD programs were outstanding within their narrow disciplines but none provided the cross-disciplinary training required for a successful career in regenerative medicine," he said.

The ultimate goal, people affiliated with the program said, will be to train students who can tackle the basic biology research underpinning stem cell-based cures for disease and move their discoveries out of the lab and into medical practice. Professors also hope the new program will help the university attract the best students and help the field of stem-cell science mature, the release said.

The program will begin accepting applications in the fall of 2011, with a first class of three to six students beginning study in 2012.

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