Michelle Khine, U.C. Merced Assoc. Professor: "It's really exciting to see the heart cells beat for the first time."
Associate Professor Michelle Khine and her student researchers specialize in creating these tiny chips that allow scientists to study and manipulate stem cells.
Michelle Khine: "You can turn a stem cell into a heart cell or other cell types and how you do that is by changing their microenvironment."
But now their difficult job is about to get a little easier. That's because U.C. Merced has been awarded about 4.4 million dollars to build a state of the art clean room that will prevent dust and other particles from polluting the pure stem cells.
Anthony Grimes, U.C. Merced Junior: "It will allow us to do research projects that we weren't able to do just due to lack of equipment and facilities."
The grant was announced in Los Angeles Wednesday, along with funding for eleven other stem cell research facilities. The state awarded 271 million dollars from a voter-approved proposition, but matching funds and other donations bring the total investment to more than one billion dollars.
Michelle Khine: "These are embryonic stem cells."
Khine and her students say its money that will be well spent.
Michelle Khine: "The way traditional medicine has been done up to this point is sort of providing a Band-Aid you have a cut, you put a Band-Aid on it. We're actually going in and replacing damaged tissue."
Anthony Grimes: "I think that's where the future for many of the new breakthroughs are going to happen. It's a very new field and it's very exciting to be on the cutting edge of that aspect of research."
The new lab will be located in an existing building at the university's facility at the former castle air force base.
The grant requires it to open within two years, and the total cost is expected to be about seven and a half million dollars.