Canadian Stem Cell Foundation Blog

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pioneers of medicine without a noble prizeSince the first award was handed out in 1901, the Nobel Prize has become globally regarded as the most prestigious recognition of intellectual achievement. What's amazing, however, is how often the Nobel committee has glaringly overlooked researchers behind outstanding discoveries that changed the practice of medicine.

Pioneers of Medicine Without a Nobel Prize, just published by the United Kingdom's Imperial College Press, tells the stories of giants in medical science who somehow never won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

CIRM logoTen years ago, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 71 to support stem cell research, committing $3 billion to stem cell research and creating the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state agency that allocates the funds.

In 2011, CIRM announced it would fund its first human clinical trial using a stem-cell derived therapy, committing $25 million to a company called Geron to test the use of neural stem cells in patients in spinal cord injury. It was an inauspicious start: Geron shut down the trial after about six months and gave back the money, citing a desire to focus on experimental cancer therapies that were further along in the development pipeline.

Posted by on in Stem Cell NewsDesk

Mini-heart Screen Capture

Stem cell derived mini-heart can pump blood through sluggish veins

A U.S.-based researcher has come up with what she believes is a stem cell solution for sluggish blood flow that could knock the socks off the current standard of care.

“Compression stockings have been used since antiquity,” says Dr. Narine Sarvazyan, a researcher at George Washington University in Washington, DC. “So we really haven’t made much progress in treating chronic venous insufficiency.”

The condition is common, affecting between 20-30% of people over the age of 50. It can be particularly distressing for people with diabetes, causing non-healing ulcers to form on their legs or ankles. It can also affect people who are paralyzed and those recovering from surgery.

full-calgary-skylineThe National Public Cord Blood Bank will have an impact in cities beyond those doing the collection. 

The first cord blood collecting facility was opened in September 2013 in Ottawa, followed by Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver, where a collection facility was launched in January at BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre.

The Calgary Herald reported yesterday that the collection of umbilical cord blood will benefit the Southern Alberta city's hospitals making it possible to perform stem cell transplants at the Alberta Children's Hospital and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre later this year.

Posted by on in Stem Cell NewsDesk
Jeff Biernaskie Screen CaptuerThe Daily Mail, one of the feistier UK tabloid papers, recently blasted this headline across its health pages:
 
Would that it were true.  According to the Huffington Post, 80 million Americans “suffer from hair loss.” For Canada, then, about 8 million people are hiding hairless heads under their hockey toques. (Full disclosure: I am one of them.)
 
The article is based on research conducted at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and published in Nature.  In a nutshell, Dr. Xiaowei "George" Xu, converted human skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells to produce large quantities of epithelial stem cells, which are normally found in hair follicles. When transferred to mice, the cells created “recognizable” shafts of hair.
 
How recognizable is debatable.  But still, this represents an advance.
 
However, Dr. Xu urged caution: “We have solved one major problem, the epithelial component of the hair follicle. We need to figure out a way to also make new dermal papillae cells, and no one has figured that part out yet.”
 
Dr. Jeff Biernaskie (pictured at right) of the University of Calgary agrees. Any cure for baldness, he says, would have to incorporate re-invigorating dermal cell function.
Obokata Capture 2The news this week that a Japanese researcher who claimed to have discovered a much simpler way to create stem cells has been found guilty of misconduct has sent a shock wave through the international stem cell community.
 
More importantly, it has everyone wondering:  does this revolutionary new method of making stem cells work?
 
In January, NewsDesk reported on the excitement generated by reports that researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, working with a team in the Boston, had transformed blood cells from newborn mice into pluripotent cells called STAP cells.
 
The STAP (stimulus-triggered activation of pluripotency) process stresses the cells by exposing them to trauma, low oxygen levels or mildly acidic solutions so that they revert to an embryonic-stem-cell-like state. Lead author Dr. Haruko Obokata (pictured at right) of the RIKEN Center said work was already underway to replicate the technique with human cells.

taylor and slomovic1Toronto Life has profiled 30 of "Toronto's Best Doctors," with about 1,000 of the city's physicians participating in a poll to nominate the best MDs based on skills, reputation and their contributions to their field of specialty.

Dr. Allan R. Slomovic, the Research Director of the Cornea/External Disease Service at the Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network (UHN), has been profiled as a top eye surgeon.

When the subject of using stem cells to treat disease comes up, most of us have an image of doctors injecting or infusing these building-block cells into a patient to stimulate the repair of their traumatized tissue or dysfunctional organs.
 
We’ve written about this approach several times in this space -- most recently reporting on a clinical trial to test stem cells in spinal cord injury.  We also reported on a 100-participant study led by Dr. Duncan Stewart at the Ottawa Health Research Institute infusing genetically enhanced blood stem cells into damaged hearts to generate healthy tissue, minimize scarring and prevent heart failure. 
 
Those kinds of studies are called in vivo, meaning “within the living.” But researchers are also opening up entirely different front in the war on disease: using stem cells to create “models” of diseased tissue or organs for testing drugs. Called in vitro (literally, "within the glass" to signify experiments carried out in a Petri dish or test tube), these studies essentially set up a disease straw man for a potential therapy to knock down.

ARMThe United States has moved a step forward toward the creation of a national strategy to support research in regenerative medicine.

On March 13, The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) announced the introduction of the Regenerative Medicine Promotion Act of 2014.

The ARM is a global advocacy organization and the U.S. national voice for promotion of legislative, regulatory and reimbursement initiatives to accelerate the development of regenerative medicine technologies.

The new bill, supported by the U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Mark Kirk, seeks to advance research in regenerative medicine in the United States.

unproven stem cell treatments bookletRecently we wrote about a workshop on unproven stem cells treatments that featured Prof. Timothy Caulfield, a member of our Foundation's Science Leadership Council. Unproven stem cells treatments are scientifically untested, lack regulatory or ethics approval and may lead to serious health consequences.

In order to increase public awareness, the University of Alberta's Prof. Caulfield and Dr. Zubin Master of Albany Medical College, have developed a booklet called "What you need to know about stem cell therapies."