Request for Information (RFI): Tools and Resources for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in the Nervous System (Neuroscience Blueprint)

Notice Number: NOT-DC-06-004

Update: The following update relating to this announcement has been issued:

Key Dates
Release Date: December 12, 2006

Issued by
NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research (
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), (
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), (
National Eye Institute (NEI), (
National Institute on Aging (NIA), (
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), (
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), (
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), (
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), (
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), (
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), (
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), (
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), (
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), (
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), (
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), (
Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), (


This is a time-sensitive RFI to determine how best to accelerate research directed toward targeted differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into specific neuronal and glial cell types.  Responses to this RFI should be pertinent to the interests of one or more of the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Institutes and Centers (ICs) listed above and should be focused on application of hESC biology to specific issues involving the unique features of the nervous system.

Neuroscience research is a unifying theme across many NIH ICs.  The NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research was launched in 2004 with 15 participating Institutes and Centers to provide a framework for coordinating research, and developing tools and resources which are broadly useful for advancing neuroscience research (  To this end, the NIH is generating a series of focused initiatives designed to catalyze neuroscience research.  In fiscal years 2005 and 2006, the Blueprint supported the creation and distribution of resources that were of broad utility to the entire neuroscience community.  In fiscal years 2007-2009, the NIH Blueprint will be addressing three specific, cross-cutting themes: neurodegeneration, neurodevelopment, and neuronal plasticity, respectively.  Additionally, for 2008-2009, the NIH Blueprint is exploring the state of the science of hESC biology for research in the nervous system.  In particular, the Blueprint is poised to address issues related to targeted differentiation of hESCs along specific neuronal and glial lineages.

NIH Blueprint Resources Currently Available to the Neuroscience Community

The NIH Blueprint is presently in its third year, and a variety of tools and resources are already available to the neuroscience community.  By pooling resources and expertise, the Blueprint is taking advantage of economies of scale and confronting challenges too large for any single NIH Institute or Center.  This effort has led to the creation of research tools and infrastructure that will better serve the neuroscience community.  The following websites give an overview of the NIH Blueprint activities already underway, many of which are useful to stem cell scientists and other neuroscientists:
NIH’s Report on Stem Cells: Repairing the Nervous System with Stem Cells

Information Requested

Any aspect of hESC biology as applied to the neuronal, glial, and ependymal elements of the central or peripheral nervous system is of interest to the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint.  Human embryonic stem cell biology encompasses multiple levels of analysis, from gene expression to therapeutic medicine.  The creation of additional tools and resources will be critical for elucidating the fundamental genetic, molecular, and cellular processes associated with hESC biology in the nervous system, as well as fulfilling the potential that stem cell research offers to the area of regenerative medicine.  As part of the initial planning process for Blueprint activities related to developing protocols for differentiating hESCs into specific neuronal and glial cell types, participating NIH ICs request responses to the questions below:

1. Has the science progressed to a point that directed differentiation of hESCs into autonomic, central, or peripheral neuronal and glial cell types is possible?

2. If scientists were able to differentiate hESCs into neuronal and glial cells, what would be the immediate applications and major opportunities?

3. Are commercial entities or scientists in other countries already pursuing this goal at a lesser, comparable, or greater pace than the NIH?

4. Are there any specific scientific impediments slowing progress in hESC research?  If so, what tools and resources can the NIH provide to overcome these impediments?


A major NIH Blueprint goal for fiscal years 2008-2009 is to generate novel research tools and resources to rapidly advance the capacity to differentiate hESCs into specific neuronal and glial cell types.  The Blueprint represents a unique means to enhance cooperative activities among the fifteen NIH ICs that support research on the nervous system.  To that end, the Blueprint encourages visionary ideas that will dramatically stimulate and facilitate hESC research.  This information gathering phase will provide insight into the strategic planning of a workshop in this area. 

Please send responses to no later than Friday, February 2, 2007.


Specific questions about this Notice may be directed to:

Barry Davis, Ph.D.
Taste and Smell Program
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders
6120 Executive Blvd
Bethesda, MD 20892-7180
Phone: 301-402-3464
FAX: 301-402-6251

Mr. Baldwin Wong
Science Policy and Planning Branch
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders
Bldg. 31, Rm. 3C27
Bethesda, MD 20892-2320
Phone: 301-496-2426
Fax: 301-402-2265

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