Stem Cells: Hope or Hype?

In free public lecture on May 30 at UC Riverside stem-cell expert Nicole zur Nieden will discuss the enthusiasm and caveats surrounding stem cell therapy

Photo shows Nicole zur Nieden.

Nicole zur Nieden is an assistant professor of cell biology and neuroscience at UC Riverside. Photo credit: Zur Nieden Lab, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Stem cells are mother cells that can become specialized cells with a more specific function, such as brain cells, blood cells, heart muscle or bone. Because they can be used to regenerate and repair diseased or damaged tissues in people, they have, at times, been portrayed as a miracle cure for a variety of conditions and disabilities.

But are they the miracle cure?  Or is that an exaggeration?  How do we separate fact from fiction and hope from hype when it comes to stem cell therapy?

Nicole zur Nieden, an assistant professor of cell biology and neuroscience at the University of California, Riverside, will give a free public lecture at UC Riverside on May 30 in which she will discuss whether the claims for stem cells can be justified.

Her hour-long talk is titled “The promise of stem cells: Hope or hype?” It will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Rooms C, D and E, University Extension Center (UNEX).  Seating is open.  Parking at UNEX is free for lecture attendees.

The lecture is the fourth and final talk in the annual Science Lecture Series hosted by the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS). This year the theme is “The Science of Disease.” The series aims to boost the public’s awareness and understanding of science and of how scientists work.

Zur Nieden, a biologist by training with expertise in stem cell biology, toxicology and bioengineering, joined UCR in 2008. She is a member of UCR’s Stem Cell Center. Her research group has established that functioning skeletal cell types are generated from embryonic stem cells, and has developed a comprehensive analysis of the expression of bone marker genes and enzymatic activity specific to bones.

Currently, her group is working to understand how embryonic stem cells develop into bone tissue. Her lab also is attempting to understand molecular regulators of normal bone development, and to deduce new therapeutic targets, which could be pinpointed during disease intervention in the clinic.

Zur Nieden received her Diplom-Biologe in 1999 from the University of Bochum and her Doctor rerum naturalium in 2002 from Ruhr-University Bochum; subsequently she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary and then a group leader at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Leipzig.

Among zur Nieden’s awards are alumni awards from the Canadian Stem Cell Network Centres of Excellence. She was a selected participant at the 2007 Nobel Laureate Meeting; a finalist for the IQ Innovation Prize, Central Germany; a Leica Meritorious Performance Award, University of Calgary; a Best Poster Presentation Award from the Canadian Stem Cell Network Annual General Meeting; and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

Her lecture will be introduced by Jack Jones, a Murrieta Valley Unified School District teacher.

More information about the lecture series can be obtained by visiting, calling (951) 827-6555 or emailing Carol Lerner.

Teachers interested in receiving professional development credit for attending the lecture series must make arrangements in advance with University Extension [; (951) 827-1653].

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-6050
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Additional Contacts

More information about the Science Lecture Series
Tel: (951) 827-6555

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