2010

22
Sep 2010
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Standing Tall

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Derek Punchard was first diagnosed with testicular cancer in August 1999. The cancer spread to his abdomen and lungs. He was treated at Princess Margaret Hospital in 2000 and underwent a stem cell transplant.…

Derek Punchard was first diagnosed with testicular cancer in August 1999. The cancer spread to his abdomen and lungs. He was treated at Princess Margaret Hospital in 2000 and underwent a stem cell transplant.

He now lives a normal and happy life with his wife Christine and their two young sons, Cole 6 and Blake 4, in Huntsville, Ontario. In his spare time Derek is a volunteer firefighter and active in community initiatives.

Derek’s experience is a powerful reminder of how stem cells are transforming lives, and you can hear his story at the “Celebrate Science” event being held by the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine tomorrow in Toronto.

Attend the Scientific Symposium from 1:30 to 3:00 pm. It’s open to the public but you need to Reserve your seat quickly (seating is limited). Or send us your questions about how stem cells are helping to heal people like Derek.

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21
Sep 2010
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Looking for a Hero? Try “Celebrate Science”

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Chris Jarvis is an Olympic rower and member of Canada’s National Rowing Team.  In the summer of 2004 Chris represented Canada at the Olympics in Greece.…

Chris Jarvis is an Olympic rower and member of Canada’s National Rowing Team.  In the summer of 2004 Chris represented Canada at the Olympics in Greece. He was a gold medalist at the 2007 Pan American Games. Impressed? It gets better

Chris has lived with Type 1 diabetes since he was 14 years old. And if there was ever a champion for people with diabetes to succeed in high-performance athletics, it’s got to be Chris.

Meanwhile he speaks on behalf of all individuals who hope to be liberated from constant blood glucose monitoring and insulin treatment, and the reality of diabetes’ cumulative damage to kidneys, heart, eyes, and limbs.

Chris is one of the extraordinary people that will be part of “Celebrate Science” held by the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine on Thursday September 23rd in Toronto.

Want to get involved? You can attend the Scientific Symposium from 1:30 to 3:00 pm. It’s open to the public but you need to Reserve your seat quickly (seating is limited). Or send us your questions about how stem cells are helping people with diabetes.

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21
Sep 2010
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Want to meet Lisa Ray? (It’s rhetorical. Who wouldn’t?)

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Lisa Ray is an actor, model, philanthropist and writer with an international career in Canada, the US, and India. Her films include Oscar-nominated Water, Defender and Cooking with Stella.…

Lisa Ray is an actor, model, philanthropist and writer with an international career in Canada, the US, and India. Her films include Oscar-nominated Water, Defender and Cooking with Stella.

In June 2009 she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that usually strikes people in their 60s. In February 2010, following stem cell transplantation Lisa announced that she is cancer free.

Lisa will be sharing her experience at the “Celebrate Science” event being held by the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine on Thursday September 23rd in Toronto.

Get involved! Attend the Scientific Symposium from 1:30 to 3:00 pm. It’s open to the public but you need to Reserve your seat quickly (seating is limited). Or send us your questions about how stem cells are transforming lives.

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20
Sep 2010
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What Would You Ask?

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September 23rd is Celebrate Science Day and the McEwen Centre has a great line-up of events.

At last year’s Celebrate Science Day, a Research Roundtable provided patients with Parkinson’s disease with the latest research findings.…

September 23rd is Celebrate Science Day and the McEwen Centre has a great line-up of events.

At last year’s Celebrate Science Day, a Research Roundtable provided patients with Parkinson’s disease with the latest research findings. Later in the day, Michael J. Fox announced the launch of the Canadian arm of the Michael J. Fox Foundation and sat down with the Hour’s George Strombolopolous to talk about stem cells, research funding and living with Parkinson’s. This was followed by a musical performance by Bryan Adams. Pretty impressive for a first event.

This year’s event will be just as action-packed. The theme for the day is The Stem Cell Healthcare Revolution and You, and will focus on the impacts of stem cell science on Canadians today, and into the future.

Events include a public symposium in the afternoon, featuring talks from several McEwen Centre scientists and patients who have benefited from stem cell treatments and features actress and activist Lisa Ray (Bollywood/Hollywood) speaking about her life-saving stem cell transplant. An all-day Science Fair will feature exhibits on research taking place at the centre.

Even if you’re not attending, you can participate by sending us questions for any of the presenters. We’ll pass them along and post responses the day after the event.

What kind of questions can you ask? Anything you want. The questions will be answered by scientists, patients and doctors, so be creative. Post your questions below, or send your questions to us by email, or post them on Facebook or twitter.

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20
Sep 2010
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Celebrate Stem Cell Science

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One of the key mandates of the Foundation is to raise awareness about stem cell science. One way we do that is by working closely with organizations that are leading the science and transforming the lives of patients — and the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine is a great case in point.…

One of the key mandates of the Foundation is to raise awareness about stem cell science. One way we do that is by working closely with organizations that are leading the science and transforming the lives of patients — and the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine is a great case in point. Their annual “Celebrate Science” Day (which takes place on September 23rd) showcases the progress being made and the lives being changed. We think they’ve got it just right and are pleased to be working with them to extend the reach and impact of this event. 

Based in Toronto’s Discovery District, the McEwen Centre is a world-renowned institution for stem cell research (read more in Collaborating for Cures). They also host some fantastic events.

We’re happy to lend our voice to “Celebrate Science” and present you with a chance to interact with some of the event’s speakers, such as the Director of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine Gordon Keller, and actress and activist Lisa Ray (Bollywood/Hollywood).

We’ll be posting updates on this event and others, news about research advancements and profiles of McEwen Centre projects on our blog throughout the month. Follow along and join us as we celebrate stem cell science and support this important research centre.

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17
Sep 2010
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Collaborating for Cures at the McEwen Centre

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It was 1961 when Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch discovered stem cells at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, paving the way for the field of regenerative medicine.…

It was 1961 when Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch discovered stem cells at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, paving the way for the field of regenerative medicine. Now, almost 50 years later, that field is one of the most exciting areas of science and the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine is helping push it forward.

The McEwen Centre continues to support the field of stem cell science, and one of the more exciting events they hold is Celebrate Science — a day-long annual event focused on raising awareness for the field. This year, Celebrate Science is being held on Thursday, September 23rd. To learn more about the McEwen Centre, visit their website. Meet the Centre’s researchers, read about the areas they are researching and find out how you can get involved.

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12
Aug 2010
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Applying the Stem Cell Charter: Transparency and Integrity in all we do

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Charter principle #4: We support “Transparency through the disclosure of results and of possible conflicts of interest.”

Charter principle #5: We support  “Integrity in the promotion and advancement of stem cell research and therapy for the betterment of the welfare of all human beings.”

It is a scientist’s duty to be transparent and honest when communicating scientific knowledge.…

Charter principle #4: We support “Transparency through the disclosure of results and of possible conflicts of interest.”

Charter principle #5: We support  “Integrity in the promotion and advancement of stem cell research and therapy for the betterment of the welfare of all human beings.”

It is a scientist’s duty to be transparent and honest when communicating scientific knowledge. Transparency means that scientists should communicate the knowledge they have gained through their work with openness and truthfulness.  They should also disclose any possible conflicts of interest (e.g. financial) that could blur their objectivity or could compromise the integrity of their work (e.g. the welfare of research participants and patients).

Transparency also means that scientists should be accountable (to their peers, research participants, patients and to society) for their actions. In the context of stem cell tourism, this means that any clinic that offers stem cell-based treatments and therapies should be able to answer these kinds of questions.

The relationship between scientists and society is reciprocal, because society is responsible towards science as the collective recipient of its benefits. Therefore it continues to be important that scientists conduct themselves with integrity and honesty in the promotion of stem cell research and therapy. Trust needs to continually earned by both sides in order to move stem cell science forward.

Rosario Isasi is a Research Associate at the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University. Her hobbies include bioethics, bioethics and bioethics. (And stem cells and policy.) Over the past two months, she has explored issues surrounding stem cell science using the five principles of the Stem Cell Charter as a starting point. Read her other posts here, here, here and here.

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04
Aug 2010
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The Link Roundup

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Every week, we post interesting links on twitter and facebook. From rapping stem cell scientists to articles on stem cell tourism, we scour the web for info on stem cell science.…

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28
Jul 2010
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If something is broken, how can it be fixed?

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This past year, I have had the honour of meeting with some of the leading scientists in the field of stem cell research.…

This past year, I have had the honour of meeting with some of the leading scientists in the field of stem cell research. It has opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.

I just finished my fourth year as an undergraduate student in the Biomedical Sciences program at the University of Ottawa, and I’m  working towards becoming a scientist because there are many things in the world that intrigue me. Most importantly, how do things work? How do I work? And if it something in me is broken, how can it be fixed?

I’ve been working with Dr. Michael Rudnicki on my honours thesis on stem cells that allow muscle regeneration. As a fourth year project, I was not expecting a breakthrough to cure a disease. But Michael is. His research into muscle stem cells can change the lives of young children suffering from muscular dystrophy. The method is to understand how the healthy body repairs itself at the cellular and molecular levels. Then, we can replicate, optimize and apply what we have learned. Not all miracles are by chance. The ones that aren’t take time and effort.

Most people have heard about how stem cells are supposed to be miracle cures and allow us to defeat previously incurable diseases. They’ve also heard of the ethical issues involved with the procurement of stem cells. Since the Stem Cell Charter launched last year I’ve been going around Ottawa and surveying pedestrians about their views on stem cells. To my surprise, public knowledge in this area is very out-dated and full of misinformation. However, the consensus was that people are eager to learn more about it.

This is why we need to spread the word about the Stem Cell Charter. The Charter promotes responsible research. We need to eliminate circulating myths and raise public awareness on the various types of research taking place. The ethical practice we follow as scientists should be recognized by the community; and the work we establish will have greater impact only when people pursue their curiosity to better understand stem cell research.

If you want to learn about stem cells, don’t jump too far into the literature. Take it one step at a time. Learn what stem cells are. Learn about their potential and the impact they can have on modern medicine. Learn the various points of views and new techniques on sources of stem cells. Because the more everyone knows the faster we can move forward.

Yu Xin (Will) Wang is a graduate student studying Cellular Molecular Medicine at the University of Ottawa. He believes in the responsible advancement of stem cell science.

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23
Jul 2010
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Moving good science forward matters to us all

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I began my career as a nurse and have always been interested in medicine and scientific research. Today, I am a working mom with a loving husband and two beautiful boys.…

I began my career as a nurse and have always been interested in medicine and scientific research. Today, I am a working mom with a loving husband and two beautiful boys. We are all happy and healthy and free of any disease.  So why have stem cells become important to me?

Even though I am healthy, I have been touched in a few ways that have made me realise how important stem cell science is to our society.

In the past few years, I lost a work colleague to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a devastating neuromuscular disease for which there is no cure or treatment. This year, I lost another friend to this terrible disease and it had a profound impact on me.

Both of these people fought courageous battles, but even at the start of their battle there was no hope.  Imagine becoming afflicted with a disease for which there is no cure, no treatment and nothing to wait for except an inevitable death? Even worse, imagine being the person left to care for the dying relative, husband, friend or wife and knowing that there is nothing you can do to prevent their death.

I also lost an uncle to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and saw him deteriorate as the disease took its toll. At this moment, I have a cousin who is dying of brain cancer and there is no hope for her – none at all.

These diseases have affected my friends and family. They were all young and productive members of our society. They also all had young families when they died and, as a parent, I cannot imagine anything worse than leaving my children behind.

Stem cells present an opportunity to treat and potentially cure  many of the diseases I have mentioned above. Stem cell science has a powerful potential to stop more suffering for ordinary people – just like you or I. I am not involved with research or working directly with this science – but I strongly believe in it.

First and foremost, I am a mom.  I always feel that there is not enough time in my day and that I should be doing more. By spreading the word through twitter, facebook and by just talking to people I’m making everyone around me aware of how important this science and I feel I am making a difference. Each time we  talk to someone else about the Charter and get them to spread the word we are one step closer to eradicating some deadly diseases and to furthering good science that matters.

I want anyone reading this to know that anyone can be affected by disease down the road – when something happens to you or someone you love, stem cells may be the answer.

Dawn Wilson immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1991 and has lived in Ottawa ever since. She has worked for the Ottawa Convention Centre for over 10 years and works closely with the Canadian Association Market to bring national and international conferences and conventions to  Ottawa. Married to a fellow Brit, Jeremy, she has two small boys aged five and two.

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21
Jul 2010
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We need to understand how human beings develop

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I’m not a scientist. I’m not even a scientific person. But I have always supported scientific research and I believe in the Stem Cell Charter.…

I’m not a scientist. I’m not even a scientific person. But I have always supported scientific research and I believe in the Stem Cell Charter.

At 41, I was diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy called Myotonic Dystrophy. Up until that point, I lived an active, rewarding and very fortunate existence. Within six months, I went from complaining about a periodic inability to release my grip to being diagnosed with a disease that has no cure and limited treatment. The muscles in my hand, right leg and tongue are deteriorating. Many other muscles may be affected in the future.

The most devastating part of hearing my diagnosis was not what it meant for me, but realizing that my two children each have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease and that it gets progressively worse with each generation.

Myotonic dystrophy is caused by a mutation of a gene that is essential for normal muscle and body function. It can only be diagnosed because of the research that allows us to map our genes.

I believe in the Stem Cell Charter because without research into how human beings develop, we will never be able to help people facing potentially devastating diseases such as Myotonic Dystrophy.

Ijeoma Ross is a freelance journalist living in Toronto. She says, “It is for my kids and their generation who will benefit from this groundbreaking research that I signed the Stem Cell Charter.”

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15
Jul 2010
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Stem Cells on the Patio

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Stem Cells on the Patio is a fun way to celebrate summer while raising awareness and funds for stem cell science.…

Stem Cells on the Patio is a fun way to celebrate summer while raising awareness and funds for stem cell science. Throw a party or bbq and encourage your guests to support you with a donation to the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. Invite friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, and anyone else you’d like to spend some time with this summer and fall. This is a great way to turn a party into something more.

If you don’t organize your own party, attend someone else’s. And if you don’t get a chance to attend, support a friend’s party, or even ours. Click here to see what the Foundation has planned.

On our Stem Cells on the Patio site, you can sponsor a party or set up your own personal “Stem Cells on the Patio” page. Check back for updates over the next month, and help us work towards advancing stem cell science.

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14
Jul 2010
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Applying the Stem Cell Charter: Intellectual Freedom

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Charter Principle # 3: We support “Intellectual Freedom to exchange ideas in the spirit of international collaboration.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (United Nations, 1966) define the right to freedom of thought and expression (i.e.…

Charter Principle # 3: We support “Intellectual Freedom to exchange ideas in the spirit of international collaboration.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (United Nations, 1966) define the right to freedom of thought and expression (i.e. intellectual freedom) as a fundamental human right.

For scientists, this means the right to freely seek, receive and impart information and ideas. It also entails respect for other views and values. So basically, intellectual freedom is the right of an individual scientist (and the scientific community) to conduct their research, publish their findings and teach and speak without unjustified interference (e.g. political, religious, etc).

What does this mean for the future — and present — of stem cell science?

Stem cell science can only move forward if scientists have the freedom (and responsibility) to do their research, share their results and exchange ideas. This doesn’t mean that they should have free reign to do anything they want — their work must always comply with ethical and legal rules and regulations — but it does mean that an environment that values and supports the basic human right to intellectual freedom is vitally important, if not essential, to fulfilling the function of science by expanding and disseminating knowledge.

Rosario Isasi is a Research Associate at the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University. Her hobbies include bioethics, bioethics and bioethics. (And stem cells and policy.)

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09
Jul 2010
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Your votes = stem cell funding

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Our friends at the National Regenerative Medicine Network are working to accelerate the translation of regenerative medicine (a.k.a. stem cell science) from textbooks and studies to patients.…

Our friends at the National Regenerative Medicine Network are working to accelerate the translation of regenerative medicine (a.k.a. stem cell science) from textbooks and studies to patients. They’re in the running to win part of $5 million in this year’s Chase Community Giving program and we hope you’ll vote and help them continue their good work.

Click here to vote. You’ll need a Facebook account to log in. Just “like” the Chase Community Giving Program and vote for the National Regenerative Medicine Foundation. Then share with your friends.

Click here to visit the National Regenerative Medicine Foundation website and learn more about what they do.

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07
Jul 2010
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Advances in stem cell science give us hope that we’ll see an end to SMA

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Throughout July, we’ll be profiling Charter Community members, people who have signed the Stem Cell Charter and are actively spreading the word about stem cell science.

Throughout July, we’ll be profiling Charter Community members, people who have signed the Stem Cell Charter and are actively spreading the word about stem cell science. Today, an article by Bill and Victoria Strong, passionate stem cell science advocates who started the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation last year to raise awareness and funds for Spinal Muscular Atrophy research.

Our daughter Gwendolyn was born in October 2007. She was perfectly healthy at first, but was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type I at six-months-old. A genetic disease that affects children all over the world, SMA is currently a death sentence with no treatment or cure.

As parents, it was simply impossible to do nothing. We started the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation (GSF), a nonprofit public charity dedicated to increasing global awareness of SMA and accelerating research toward a cure.

Our primary way of reaching people is through technology and online media, running campaigns to increase awareness and much needed funding. In our first year, we’ve managed to create a strong grassroots community online. We’ve run several Twitter-based campaigns, reaching millions of people around the globe. We were voted to the winner’s circle out of more than 500,000 non-profit organizations in the first Chase Community Giving campaign on Facebook, winning $125,000 for our cause. We created an online petition, garnering over 90,000 votes in support of important SMA legislation currently making its way through the United States Congress.  We’ve directed significant funding to researchers and are proud of what our organization and the broader SMA community has accomplished.

And we’re no strangers to stem cell science. In fact, our fundraising programs have directed over $235,000 in the last eight months to a promising stem cell program at the University of California, Irvine led by Dr. Hans Keirstead. This groundbreaking research, using motor neuron progenitors, is on the brink of human clinical trial in the United States — possibly the first ever of its kind — and has already paved the way for future stem cell projects.

We know stem cell science holds massive promise for SMA and we believe in the power of grassroots movements. This is why we signed the Stem Cell Charter. It represents an important grassroots-based paradigm shift, focused on creating a better understanding and highlighting the dedication of inspiring scientists actively involved in moving stem cell science forward across the globe.

We also know that others needed to know about this important movement. So we’ve reached out to our social network through email, twitter, facebook and our blog, asking our supporters to sign the Stem Cell Charter and spread the word. And when we learned the Stem Cell Charter was up for a Webby award, we were happy to once again to reach out to our network to rally online support. We are strong supporters of what the Stem Cell Charter is hoping to accomplish and are honored to be involved.

Read more about the Strongs here.

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02
Jul 2010
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Why did you sign the Stem Cell Charter?

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Over 4,000 people have signed the Stem Cell Charter since its release last September. This month, we’ll be profiling Charter Community Members, people who signed the Charter and are passionately working towards advancing stem cell science.…

Over 4,000 people have signed the Stem Cell Charter since its release last September. This month, we’ll be profiling Charter Community Members, people who signed the Charter and are passionately working towards advancing stem cell science. They’ll tell us why they signed the Charter, why they think supporting stem cell science is important and what they’re doing to champion the cause.

But before we get to that, let’s take a look at why people signed the Charter to begin with. Everyone who signed was asked why they were signing: for themselves or someone they care about; the scientists so they can continue their work; the responsible advancement of stem cell science; the benefit of future generations; or all humanity. Which reason did you choose? And which reasons did others choose? Take a look below to see the breakdown.

Almost half of us signed for All Humanity. This encompasses a great variety of reasons, and this month is the perfect time to share your personal reasons for supporting stem cell science. Send us your story by email, or by posting it on facebook, twitter, or in the comments section of this post.

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16
Jun 2010
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Applying the Stem Cell Charter: Protecting Ourselves

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Charter Principle #2: We support the “Protection of citizens from harm and the safeguarding of the public trust and values.”

Persons are treated ethically by respecting their autonomy and protecting them from harm, but also by making efforts to secure their well-being.…

Charter Principle #2: We support the “Protection of citizens from harm and the safeguarding of the public trust and values.”

Persons are treated ethically by respecting their autonomy and protecting them from harm, but also by making efforts to secure their well-being. The Charter’s principle of “protection” encompasses two other principles related to biomedical guides for ethical action: “non-malfeasance” and “beneficence”.

It sounds a little complicated, so what do these mean? “Non-malfeasance” simply means not intentionally causing harm or injury to people.  “Beneficence” means acting in the best interests of others, whether that is an individual or society as a whole. This latter principle encompasses two ethical (and sometimes legal) rules:

  1. Do not harm
  2. Maximize possible benefits and minimize possible harms

Since the Nuremberg Code and the 1964 Helsinki Declaration first framed research ethics, other historical precedents have emphasized the importance of scientists taking responsibility for their own work.   The 1975 Summary Statement of the Asilomar Conference outlines this idea of self-regulation. The conference focused on research on recombinant DNA molecules that introduced techniques for the combination of genetic information from different organisms. Of particular concern was the need to define this new science so that it would have “minimal risks to workers in laboratories, to the public at large and to the animal and plant species sharing our ecosystems.” Most importantly, the Asilomar conference reached the consensus that research should have safeguards; that measures of protection should be high at first, and then, once new knowledge, technical improvements and risk assessment changed over time, they could be lowered. It was also decided that research activities should not proceed in the presence of serious risk.

This approach has been adopted by organizations around the world such as the Human Genome Organization, International Society for Stem Cell Research and the International Stem Cell Forum.

Adhering to international norms of human rights implies respect for values, traditions, culture and integrity of individuals; it requires accepting and upholding their dignity and freedom. Moreover, ethical probity means respecting and promoting the health and rights of patients. The principle of “protection” encompasses respect for persons. It implies both a requirement to respect individual’s decisions with respect to their bodies, and the protection of individuals with diminished autonomy, who, for whatever reason, do not have the ability to speak for themselves.

How are these principles related to real-world issues? Well, a good example is stem cell tourism – when people travel abroad to receive stem cell-based treatments and therapies.  Over the past decade, clinical trials for stem cell-based treatments have been carried out using umbilical cord blood stem cells and blood stem cells from bone marrow to treat diseases like leukemia, lymphoma and several inherited blood disorders. The safety and efficacy of these interventions has been well established.

Treatments using human embryonic stem cells and fetal tissue, however, are still in early experimental stages. But controversial clinical trials using these cells are being conducted and advertised in several countries as if they were established therapies. Some of them are being carried out with little scientific evidence and oversight (legal, ethical), and with no evaluation of clinical outcomes and safety.

This is why it’s important to become informed about stem cell science, and the issues surrounding its applications. The Stem Cell Charter acts as a springboard. Start by learning about each of the principles and why they are important in the context of stem cell science. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll explore the principles of “intellectual freedom,” “transparency,” and “integrity.”

Rosario Isasi is a Research Associate at the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University. Her hobbies include bioethics, bioethics and bioethics. (And stem cells and policy.)

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14
Jun 2010
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Stem Cells One, Disease Zero

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As you may have heard, the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation website won the Webby People’s Voice Award for Best Activism Website.…

As you may have heard, the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation website won the Webby People’s Voice Award for Best Activism Website. We’re attending the award ceremonies tonight and we’ll be tweeting live from the star-studded event all night long. Follow us on twitter to see what’s what, who we’ve met and what we’ve seen.

A million thanks to everyone who voted and helped get us here!

[UPDATE]: The Webby Awards YouTube Channel has posted videos from last night’s ceremonies. Click here to see James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, deliver our five-word acceptance speech.

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14
Jun 2010
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Applying the Stem Cell Charter: We’re all responsible

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Charter Principle #1: We have a “Responsibility to maintain the highest level of scientific quality, safety and ethical probity.”

Science is a social activity.…

Charter Principle #1: We have a “Responsibility to maintain the highest level of scientific quality, safety and ethical probity.”

Science is a social activity. Scientists work in teams to make discoveries; interact with the government, community leaders and business people to get funding; and publish papers and talk to journalists to make sure the world knows about what they’re doing. They work with doctors to move their work from the lab to the clinic, and with students to teach them how science works. Ultimately, scientists interact with us all, and are responsible to society for everything they do.

This means that safeguarding public trust and maintaining society’s confidence in their research is vital. Without it, scientists would not be able to do what they do. At least not for very long.

Scientific responsibility means that scientists should perform their work with competence, integrity and to the best of their abilities. It means that they should adhere to the highest ethical and scientific standards. In a field that is developing quickly, such as stem cell science, which holds lots of potential and hope, it is extremely important not to mislead by overpromising or jumping to conclusions, and especially not to withhold information.

And while scientists are responsible to society, it’s also important to remember that the relationship is not one-sided. We, as members of the public and the collective recipients of scientists’ work, are equally responsible. We need to support science by being informed and engaged.  This is the precise reason the Stem Cell Charter exists, it’s a way for all of us to fulfill our responsibility and make sure we’re all working together to move stem cell science forward responsibly.

Rosario Isasi is a Research Associate at the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University. Her hobbies include bioethics, bioethics and bioethics. (And stem cells and policy.)

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08
Jun 2010
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Applying the Stem Cell Charter: Science for Human Rights

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Last year, the Stem Cell Foundation launched the Stem Cell Charter, a one-page document that sets out five principles — responsible science, protection of citizens, intellectual freedom, transparency and integrity — directed at advancing stem cell science for the benefit of all humanity.…

Last year, the Stem Cell Foundation launched the Stem Cell Charter, a one-page document that sets out five principles — responsible science, protection of citizens, intellectual freedom, transparency and integrity — directed at advancing stem cell science for the benefit of all humanity. But what does that really mean? How and why were those five principles chosen? And what does the Charter have to say that applies to all of us?

First of all, the Charter has taken a unique approach when compared to other stem cell-related policy documents: it reminds us that science, health and human rights are and should always be interconnected. Violations or lack of attention to human rights can have serious health consequences for us all and can impact the way health policies and programs (such as funding for scientific research or policies regulating scientific research and clinical applications) are created.

The Charter reminds us that we all have a “right to health” by stating that: “enjoyment of the highest attainable state of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without discrimination of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition” (WHO, Constitution, 1946).

Most people think that the right to health means access to health care or even just being “healthy,” but it goes far beyond that. This right includes freedoms (e.g. the right to be free from non-consensual treatments) and entitlements (e.g. the rights to enjoy the benefit of scientific advances like access to prevention, treatment and control of diseases). It is also universal; it is for all of us to enjoy without discrimination based on race, gender, religion, political beliefs or socioeconomic status.

Governments have an obligation to protect, promote and fulfill human rights. To realize the right to health, different steps are needed. The first is supporting and regulating scientific research. In the same way, the scientific community also has a role to play in advancing this right: they have an obligation to promote responsible research and deliver safe and effective therapies for the benefit of all humankind.

So why is important to talk about the right to health in the context of stem cell science?

All of humankind has a vested interest in stem cell science because this field has the potential to treat a wide range of debilitating conditions and is progressing rapidly. With the hope that is generated by this progress, there is also concern regarding questionable practices. It is vital to address these concerns because of the connection between science, health and human rights.  We all have the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications the same way we have the right for scientific advances to be realized with full respect to our human rights and dignity.

The principles and intent of the Stem Cell Charter draw from previous instruments for the protection of human rights, and the principles laid out in the Stem Cell Charter promote the right to health in the context of stem cell research. Over the next month, we’ll take a closer look at these principles and how they apply to real-world issues and our day-to-day lives. Five principles, five posts — we hope you’ll follow along.

Rosario Isasi is a Research Associate at the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University. Her hobbies include bioethics, bioethics and bioethics. (And stem cells and policy.)

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02
Jun 2010
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MS and Stem Cells: A Recap

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Over the past 38 days, we’ve celebrated a slightly extended version of MS Awareness Month by exploring how stem cells are being used to treat MS.…

Over the past 38 days, we’ve celebrated a slightly extended version of MS Awareness Month by exploring how stem cells are being used to treat MS. If you missed any of it, here’s the recap.

In our multi-part series on the Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study, we heard from researchers who are re-growing the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells. We also heard from the people behind the scenes of the study, as well as a few of the patients:

We also celebrated World MS Day and posted lots of resources about MS and stem cells, like this Stem Cell and MS Animation, this video featuring Dr. Sam Weiss on Reversing Stroke and MS and the Stem Cell Network MS Patient Summary.

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27
May 2010
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MS and Stem Cells: These scientists are on to something

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The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to determine whether transplanting bone marrow stem cells in people with MS can stop the disease.

The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to determine whether transplanting bone marrow stem cells in people with MS can stop the disease. Led by Drs. Mark Freedman and Harold Atkins at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and University of Ottawa, the study began in August of 2000. Ten years later, more than half of the 26 patients enrolled have seen their symptoms stabilize and, in many cases, actually improve, unheard of results in the treatment of MS. Yet few people know about this research. As part of our month-long focus on MS and stem cells, we will speak with people involved in every aspect of this study: the doctors and researchers, patients and their families and the people behind the scenes. Today, Sue-Anne Lecompte, a patient in the study, shares her story of MS.

Q: When were you first diagnosed with MS?

A: I was 38 when I was first diagnosed with MS. It was the spring of 2003 and I had been living a pretty active life — building a career, and a home and life with my husband.

My first attack started on a Friday and progressed for seven days with a vengeance until I could no longer walk, talk or use the left side of my body. This resulted in my first five-month stay in the hospital. It took another two or three such hits and a lumbar puncture to confirm the disease. Then I began a three-month stay at a rehabilitation centre to relearn how to walk, use my left hand and speak.

In the first months of 2004, my MS hit again and again. I became quite good at relearning each time what had been lost. Over and over this went on until I received the stem cell transplant in 2009.

While enduring this five-year carnival ride, I was treated with steroids, injectables and chemotherapy. None of these treatments seemed to stabilize or even modify the disease. It just kept hitting – different hues of the same type of stuff, with varying degrees of handicap.

Q: How did you find out about the Canadian MS Bone Marrow Research Study?

A: I found out about the study after watching a story on W-5 in 2004. I met with Dr. Atkins for a chemotherapy treatment in 2005, and Dr. Freedman that same year, to inquire about what I had seen. At that time, Dr. Freedman indicated that I would be using a wheel chair full-time within five years if the disease continued at the same rate. But luck had turned my way and I had the chance to hear about this research study from “the horse’s mouth.” Talk about two lucky appointments. I was accepted into the trial in 2008, five years after I had first been diagnosed.

Q: How did being a patient in the study affect your life?

A: It was my first experience as a patient in a research study, and the implications of this were huge. The study always came first. There were hospital visits, tests and an immense amount of recovery time. My husband turned into my chauffeur, my cook, my second set of ears, my sounding board. Luckily, we live in Ottawa so we didn’t have to move for the trial, but the study still took its toll, financially, time-wise and emotionally.

Q: How did you prepare to enter the study?

A: I informed friends and family that I would need support and understanding, and that this study was pretty dangerous. Given the chance of death, I prepared a will.

Physically, I stayed as healthy and fit as possible. I underwent many medical tests. But I was totally available because I had been dreaming about being healthy for a long time and I was willing to do anything to fulfill that dream.

Q: What were your expectations and fears going into the study?

A: I had neither fear nor expectation. The study was totally transparent and I thought it made perfect sense. Nothing in life is without chance and I was willing to take any chance to be healthy. Furthermore, I believed in the research and its conclusions. It was my chance to alter the course of this hateful disease.

Q: What kind of changes did you see in yourself after getting the stem cell transplant?

A: Directly after the treatment, I could wiggle my toes and walk 400 metres with three short rests. After three months, I could cook my own meals, bathe myself and walk 400 metres without stopping and with no leg brace or cane. Six months after the treatment, I could walk 800 metres without stopping and without support. I could put on my own earrings and chew gum, which I hadn’t done in seven years.

Q: What do you want people to take away from your story? What do you want them to know about stem cell science?

A: This treatment works. It’s not easy and you must commit wholeheartedly, but I want people to know that these scientists are on to something.

This past Easter, one year and three months post-transplant, I wore high heels for the first time in seven years. Who knows what lies ahead for me? I do know that I can now make plans for tomorrow!

Sue-Anne Lecompte is married to Gilles. She loves the outdoors, her pets and most of all life. She believes her stem cell transplant has allowed her to make plans for a new tomorrow.

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27
May 2010
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MS and Stem Cells: It’s happening right now

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The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to re-grow the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells.

The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to re-grow the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells. Led by Drs. Mark Freedman and Harold Atkins at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and University of Ottawa, the study began in August of 2000. Ten years later, more than half of the 26 patients enrolled have seen their symptoms stabilize and, in many cases, actually improve, unheard of results in the treatment of MS. Yet few people know about this research. As part of our month-long salute to MS and stem cells, we will speak with people involved in every aspect of this study: the doctors and researchers, patients and their families and the people behind the scenes. In these three videos, Dr. Harry Atkins gives an overview of stem cells and how they’re being used in this study. Videos courtesy of the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

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26
May 2010
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Today is World MS Day — It’s Time to Take Action

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Today is World MS Day. People from around the world are raising awareness about the more than 2 million individuals who are living with MS.…

Today is World MS Day. People from around the world are raising awareness about the more than 2 million individuals who are living with MS. And they are taking action to demonstrate their support and to search for a cure.

In Canada, between 55,000 and 75,000 individuals have Multiple Sclerosis – it is unpredictable, affecting vision, hearing, memory, balance, and mobility.

The MS Society of Canada is committed to supporting Canadians living with MS, and to funding research to find a cure. This month, the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation has told you about how important stem cells are in this work. They have shared the stories, experiences and insights of people living with MS and from those committed to finding a cure. We thank the Foundation for their leadership and we encourage them to continue their work.

Today is a day for you to show your leadership as well. I encourage you to think about what you can do to support those who are searching for a cure. Take a moment today and take a small action—show your support at worldmsday.org, sign the Stem Cell Charter or get involved locally.

Sincerely,

Yves Savoie
President & CEO
MS Society of Canada

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26
May 2010
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MS and Stem Cells: Time is Brain

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The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to re-grow the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells.

The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to re-grow the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells. Led by Drs. Mark Freedman and Harold Atkins at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and University of Ottawa, the study began in August of 2000. Ten years later, more than half of the 26 patients enrolled have seen their symptoms stabilize and, in many cases, actually improve, unheard of results in the treatment of MS. Yet few people know about this research. As part of our month-long salute to MS and stem cells, we will speak with people involved in every aspect of this study: the doctors and researchers, patients and their families and the people behind the scenes. Today, an interview with Dr. Mark Freedman.

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19
May 2010
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MS and Stem Cells: It amazes me that I have a new immune system

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The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to determine whether transplanting bone marrow stem cells in people with MS can stop the disease.

The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to determine whether transplanting bone marrow stem cells in people with MS can stop the disease. Led by Drs. Mark Freedman and Harold Atkins at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and University of Ottawa, the study began in August of 2000. Ten years later, more than half of the 26 patients enrolled have seen their symptoms stabilize and, in many cases, actually improve, unheard of results in the treatment of MS. Yet few people know about this research. As part of our month-long focus on MS and stem cells, we will speak with people involved in every aspect of this study: the doctors and researchers, patients and their families and the people behind the scenes. Today, Cathy Nabuurs, a patient in the study, shares her MS stories.

Q: When were you diagnosed with MS?

A: I was diagnosed with MS in January of 2001 at the age of 28. I was beginning my career as a speech-language pathologist and had been married for about three years.

Q: What kind of symptoms prompted you to see a doctor?

A: I was experiencing vertigo, numbness and tingling in my extremities. Later on I had dexterity issues and difficulty with gait, muscle strength, pain and fatigue.  When I was first diagnosed with MS, I was given a disease modifying drug. It was not very effective for my type of MS and my disease continued to worsen. In 2006, I was told that I had progressed to a more aggressive form of the disease known as Secondary Progressive MS.  My body was now experiencing continuous progression without attacks or remissions.

Q: When and how did you find out about the stem cell trial?

A: I originally heard about the stem cell trial on a local news radio show. This was before I was officially diagnosed with MS but was experiencing symptoms and suspected something neurological.

Q: What was the process of being accepted into the trial?

A: There were three factors: I had to be physically fit (with normal function of the heart and lungs), I had to have Secondary Progressive MS, and I had to have had unsuccessful results with a disease modifying drug.  I was accepted in January of 2007 and my family relocated to Ottawa for a year. My husband was able to come with me and my parents also were extremely helpful and supportive. They moved to Ottawa and lived with us for four months. This was great for our children because they had some sense of normalcy in their lives.  Before departing for Ottawa, our friends and family organized a benefit event which raised significant money and was a huge help. Without all the support, this treatment would have been much more difficult.

Q: How did you prepare to enter the study?

A: My son was five years old when I entered the study and I needed to explain to him the purpose of our move and what was going to happen to Mommy in the simplest of terms. It was very difficult for me as a mother with two small children (ages five years and nine months).   The worst case scenario  was the slight possibility that I would die. Dr. Freedman and Dr.Atkins made sure that we didn’t make the decision lightly, which I greatly appreciated. And I was the 16th subject in the study, so I felt very encouraged. Physically, I had to undergo many tests and procedures to ensure that my body was up for the treatment. At each stage of testing, there was a chance that I would no longer be eligible for the treatment. The doctors had to be certain that my body was strong enough to make it through the chemotherapy. I was very nervous that the results of this testing would not be favourable.

Q:  What were your expectations going into the study?

A: I was given a copy of the treatment protocol to review. Dr. Atkins and Dr. Freedman were very helpful with my questions. and reviewed each step so that I could fully absorb the information. This was extremely helpful and comforting.

Q: What was the treatment like?

A: It was a very difficult procedure, but also very beneficial and life changing.   The first step of this process involved having my medical files submitted to the ethics committee. After we received their approval, I had to undergo many tests and procedures prior to moving to Ottawa, to ensure that I was physically fit for the transplant.  In May 2007, the first significant medical procedure to be performed was a bone marrow harvest. It was performed as a precaution so that my bone marrow could be used to re-grow my existing immune system if the new one did not grow as expected or if for any reason the transplant was unsuccessful. The next step was the harvest of my stem cells which were then purified and frozen until my body was ready for them.   The following step was the most risky and difficult. It was the eradication of my existing immune system through heavy doses of chemotherapy (25 doses), in order to make way for a new, healthy immune system.  After the last day of chemo and a day of rest, I received my purified stem cells.

Q: How did you feel  throughout the different steps of the study?

A: I was very nervous prior to starting the trial, however, once I arrived in Ottawa I knew that I was in very good hands. The doctors and nurses were very sensitive and caring to me and my family.  The hardest part for me, emotionally, was seeing my children while I was in the hospital receiving the chemotherapy. It was wonderful to be able to see them on a regular basis, but it was tough to watch my oldest child, Ethan, who was five years old at the time. During our talk before we left for Ottawa, I explained to him why we were moving. This treatment was going to make Mommy better. This is why it was so difficult for him when he saw the effects of the chemotherapy. The look on his face clearly revealed his thoughts that Mommy was not getting better, only worse. It was also very hard for me to see my one year old daughter as well, because I wasn’t able to really hold her.  During the chemotherapy treatment, I was very ill. On one particular day, I remember saying to my husband that I was finished with the chemotherapy and I wanted to go home. My husband looked at me and said “No…you started this ride and now you have to finish it”. I knew this deep down, but it was just a very hard day and I needed a push.

Q: What were the outcomes of the study for you?

A: The biggest change that I saw three months post transplant, was that I was no longer nauseated and I could keep my food down. Halloween night was the first time I felt strong enough to eat and keep food in my stomach.  I think that it was sheer Mommy determination that helped me get through trick or treating with my husband and children.  Last year, I was feeling stronger, but my immune system was still fairly new, and I would pick up colds and flues very easily. I was not able to receive the flu shot until this year because of the age of my immune system. This year, I feel terrific. I have had only a few colds.  I feel stronger and as a result I am able to exercise and work a little bit, without getting ill.  This August will be my third year anniversary of the stem cell transplant. There have been improvements, most noticeable has been the decreased fatigue.  Prior to the transplant, I had to have naps at least five days of the week. Now, I don’t nap unless I am sick with a cold or if I’m extra busy with my children (ages 3 and 8).  I’ve also noticed increased strength in my legs.  The indisputable proof that this treatment has been successful is in the results of my bi-annual MRI scans.  My brain and spinal cord show no new signs of the disease as there are no new lesions on any of my MRIs since the treatment.

Q: How has the study affected your life?

A: I have a new lease on life which is hard to put into words.  My family and I have been given a second chance and I will always be extremely grateful for this and indebted to the doctors, nurses, family and friends who helped us make this a reality.   At my last check up in Ottawa in February, my rating on the MS disability scale was a 2.0. Prior to starting the study, I was a 3.5.  The transplant was successful and today I have an immune system which shows no signs of disease activity.

Q: What are your hopes for the future?

A: It would be nice to have more myelin repair, but I would be very happy if my body can stay the way that it is at this present time.  I am just so relieved and overjoyed that I can play an active part in my family’s life. Without the support of my family, I would not have been able to get through the treatment. They helped me to fight this illness and the effects of the chemotherapy in the hospital.

Q: What do you hope people take away from your story? What do you want people to know about the trial and about stem cell science?

A: I would like people to know that there is hope. I am living proof of the success of this trial. I know that I am extremely fortunate and I will never take that for granted.  I look at the results of this trial as miraculous. It still amazes me that I have a new immune system and my body has no memory of the MS. Sure I have the old lesions to contend with when I am ill or tired, but my hope is that they too will fade away physically and emotionally.

Cathy Nabuurs and her family were recently named the 2010 MS Family of the Year for P.E.I. Read about it here.

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14
May 2010
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MS and Stem Cells: Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have been an option

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The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to determine whether transplanting bone marrow stem cells in people with MS can stop the disease.

The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to determine whether transplanting bone marrow stem cells in people with MS can stop the disease. Led by Drs. Mark Freedman and Harold Atkins at the University of Ottawa, the study began in August of 2000. Ten years later, more than half of the 26 patients enrolled have seen their symptoms stabilize and, in many cases, actually improve, unheard of results in the treatment of MS. Yet few people know about this research. As part of our month-long focus on MS and stem cells, we will speak with people involved in every aspect of this study: the doctors and researchers, patients and their families and the people behind the scenes. Today, Alexander Normin, a patient in the study, talks about his experience with MS.

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13
May 2010
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MS and Stem Cells: A behind the scenes look

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The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to re-grow the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells.

The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to re-grow the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells. Led by Drs. Mark Freedman and Harold Atkins at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and University of Ottawa, the study began in August of 2000. Ten years later, more than half of the 26 patients enrolled have seen their symptoms stabilize and, in many cases, actually improve, unheard of results in the treatment of MS. Yet few people know about this research. As part of our month-long salute to MS and stem cells, we will speak with people involved in every aspect of this study: the doctors and researchers, patients and their families and the people behind the scenes. Today, an interview with Marjorie Bowman, RN, the Research Coordinator for the study.

Q: What’s your role in this study?

A: The study is headed by Dr. Harry Atkins and Dr. Mark Freedman, though there are many people involved. Dr. Atkins is the bone marrow transplant physician, he oversees the stem cell transplants; Dr. Freedman is a neurologist who specializes in MS; and I’m the Research Coordinator. We’ve all been involved in the study from the very beginning, and my role has evolved quite a bit over the past 10 years.

At the very beginning, my job was to get the study up and running — submitting and getting approval from the ethics board — which is a huge process; developing all the data collection tools and forms, and getting everything set up within the hospital. It was big learning experience for everyone involved because the clinics at the hospital hadn’t done a lot of research transplants, so it was very different.

Another big part of my job early in the study was screening and speaking to potential patients. When we received the grant from the MS Society of Canada, there was a big announcement on their website and word spread quickly among the MS community. When I started my position, the MS Clinic had been keeping a list of all the people who had called to inquire about the study. So I had this list of patients that I had to contact and screen. There were 20 patients on this list. With a lot of the inquiries, you know right away that they’re not going to meet the criteria, but you still have to speak with them and explain the trial.

And that was the first year. We developed the protocol, and got everything in place. The first patient received a transplant in October of 2001.

Q: What was it like once you started seeing patients?

A: With the first patient, it was a matter of working through the protocol we had developed step by step, and it was a big learning experience. The protocol has evolved with the study, and we’ve kept up with changes in treatment and technology.

Pre-transplant, we did all the screening. We had to make sure the patient met all the inclusion criteria, and then go through the consent form with them and have them sign it, which is a process. The patients had two counseling sessions prior to signing the consent form, one with Dr. Atkins and one with Dr. Freedman.

Then, the patient goes for a first baseline visit, where they have all the neurological testing and blood work done, and then safety testing to see if they are a good candidate for the study. If they had any illnesses besides MS, they were excluded from the study. So we were testing the heart, lungs, things like that. I coordinated all that, all the testing and visits. I worked very closely with the patients during this process and got to know them very well.

Once they got to the transplant phase of the study, they were turned over to the bone marrow transplant team at The Ottawa Hospital. During that time, I was the first point of contact if they had any problems.

Once they had been through the transplant, I coordinated post-transplant testing. All the patients have to have lumbar punctures and MRI and MRS scans once a year, plus lots of neurological testing. I was kind of overseeing all that testing.

In the meantime, I was still screening patients and talking to potential patients from all over Canada. And that’s something we didn’t expect. The people from out of town need a little extra support to get here and go through the trial. And there were some very brave, dedicated patients for sure.

Q: How many patients have gone through the trial and how much information are you collecting?

A: Of the 26 patients that have gone through the trial, 24 have actually received stem cell transplants. We have 2 control patients — they had the same inclusion criteria but refused the transplant, and we’ve been following them closely to see how their symptoms compare with those who have received a transplant.

In 2008, we received another grant from the MS Society to follow these patients even further. Originally we followed patients for three years after their transplants. But the investigators weren’t satisfied with only three years. They wanted to follow them longer because we need to see that their MS is stable for a sustained period of time. So, we’re now going to be following the patients until 2012. It’s been such a range of time, because the first patient received a transplant in 2001 and the most recent patient received one in December of 2009. So the last patient will have a three year follow up, but the first will have 11 years. It’s great to be able to follow them for so long and to see the changes.

It’s interesting, my role has evolved with the study, now that the transplants are done, compiling and analyzing the data is a bigger part of my job. We’ve collected literally rooms worth of data on the patients. I have four two-inch binders on each patient, so it’s a lot.

We’re working on compiling all of it right now and preparing to present our findings. We’re going to be publishing for the next 10 years by the looks of it, and we’re hoping to publish our first paper in the fall.

Q: What kind of results have you seen?

A: So, this is kind of a summary: we’ve seen stabilization in many of the patients, which was our goal. It has been exiciting to see improvments in some patients. Some have been able to walk without mobility aids, many have experienced decreased fatigue. Some have returned to work and are now focusing on new goals. After getting to know these patients so well, seeing the improvement in their quality of life has been surprising and rewarding for me.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of working on this study?

A: The most rewarding part of the study has been the patients. Just getting to know them and helping them through this trial has been fantastic. Whenever I was having a bad day, I would think about what these patients were doing and what they were going through.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of the study?

A: I hope that this will become standard care for MS, though of course it’s not for everyone. Dr. Atkins has said that only 5-10 % of MS patients would benefit from this kind of treatment.

But there have been a number of interesting findings, not all strictly related to the transplant. One thing I’m hoping the data from the study will show is that we don’t need to give MS patients so many immunosuppressants, so maybe it’ll lead to less toxic therapies for   all MS patients.

Marjorie Bowman is the mother of two young children. She enjoys reading and playing shinny.

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06
May 2010
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MS and Stem Cells: I still have MS, but I don’t

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The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to re-grow the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells.

The Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study is a MS Society-funded project to re-grow the immune systems of patients with MS using stem cells. Led by Drs. Mark Freedman and Harold Atkins at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and University of Ottawa, the study began in August of 2000. Ten years later, more than half of the 26 patients enrolled have seen their symptoms stabilize and, in many cases, actually improve, unheard of results in the treatment of MS. Yet few people know about this research. As part of our month-long salute to MS and stem cells, we will speak with people involved in every aspect of this study: the doctors and researchers, patients and their families and the people behind the scenes. Today, an article by Jennifer Molson, a patient in the study.

Image courtesy of The Ottawa Hospital

I was 21 when I was diagnosed with MS. It was 1996, and I was healthy – running two km everyday, working full time, taking college courses and volunteering two days a week with the Ottawa Police Youth Program. I wanted to become a police officer. And, like any girl, I dreamed of walking down the aisle on my wedding day and dancing with my dad and husband.

Then I started to notice tingling and numbness in my arms and hands. I started to feel tired, too tired to run most days, and, when I worked out at the gym, I found the heat exhausting.

My family doctor thought the numbness was due to carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrist and the tiredness a result of working too much and staying out too late. I slowed down a bit, but the symptoms remained. Soon after, I had a lumbar puncture and a MRI scan. The diagnosis: Relapsing/Remitting MS.

Pretty quickly, I was transferred to the MS Clinic at the Ottawa General Hospital run by Dr. Mark Freedman. Over the next six years, I had multiple relapses: I lost function in my arm, experienced numbness in my legs and went through periods of extreme dizziness and nausea. I never knew how or when my MS would strike, and after each relapse I was left with more disability. I realised that becoming a police officer was not in my future.

The summer of 2000 was great, but by September I began to notice a lot of new symptoms and, by the beginning of 2001, I could no longer work. I was barely able to stand, had no sensation from mid-chest to my toes and was constantly nauseous. An MRI scan showed lesions on my brain stem. My diagnosis was changed to Secondary Progressive MS.

That year, Dr. Freedman told me about a new stem cell transplant study for patients with MS. They would destroy my immune system using chemotherapy and then use stem cells from my own bone marrow to essentially grow a new immune system. Their goal was to stop the progression of the disease, not to fix damage that had already been done. The best I was hoping for at that point was to not get any worse.

So, even though the procedure was experimental and involved risks, including seizures, sterility, and even death, my decision was easy. I had tried everything else, so I had no fear. My boyfriend (now husband), however, was terrified, but supported my decision. You know it’s pretty bad when death is a viable option and what you’re doing to help could actually kill you in the process.

After months of tests, surgery, stem cell recovery, chemo treatments and injections I was ready to begin the transplant stage on July 4th, 2002. I had my stem cells harvested, and over the next three weeks they were transplanted into me.

The first six to eight months after the transplant are a blur and involved overwhelming tiredness and lots of medical appointments. My life was scheduled day by day from February of 2002 until the time I was done. Even now, I still have to go for tests and follow-ups, but it’s a longer leash.

When I look back it was probably about two years before I really started to feel better. And it was sometimes so gradual that I didn’t realize I was getting better. One day I realised I had walked to my mailbox and back without a cane. Soon after, I walked into Dr. Freedman’s office and he looked down and said, “Jen, you’re wearing high heels!” For someone who had been wheelchair-bound a couple of years earlier, this was a remarkable thing.

I approach my eighth year post-transplant mark this July. I’m no longer taking any medication. I returned to work full-time, passed my driving test, am completely independent, inside my home and out. I’ve even gone downhill skiing. I was married seven years ago and, yes, I did dance at my wedding.

I still have MS, but I don’t. For many people with this disease, your whole life is spent coping with getting worse. For me, I’m fortunate to be coping with getting better.

Jennifer Molson was patient number six in the Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study. She is also a True Blood expert.

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06
May 2010
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Your Ideas, Your Effort, Your Votes

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There are many things we know about stem cells – and still many things we don’t. We know there are many different types – all working to help our bodies function each day.…

There are many things we know about stem cells – and still many things we don’t. We know there are many different types – all working to help our bodies function each day. We know that stem cells are central to helping people with leukemia and other diseases through bone marrow transplants and therapies. We also know that they hold tremendous potential to unlock treatment for a variety of other illnesses.

This month we’re focusing on the work that is being done to use stem cells to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

This was your idea. In March,  we asked you to decide which disease area to run an awareness campaign for and you said MS. The fact that May is designated as MS Awareness Month by the MS Society is perfect timing. We will be sharing articles, videos, links and other information related to MS over the course of the month; you can learn more by reading “MS and Stem Cells” below.

In April our focus was on students teaching students, and we profiled a number of people’s efforts to teach others about stem cell science in innovative ways. From Alessandra Pasut, Angela McDonald and Paul Cassar, who work on StemCellTalks to David Kent, who runs scienceadvocacy.org, we heard from students around the world who are passionately and eloquently getting the word out about the importance of this field. Hopefully you had the chance to read their stories. If not, I encourage you to visit our blog.

Also in April, we found out that we were one of five finalists worldwide for an international Webby Award. It was a great honour to be nominated and it made us eligible for a People’s Voice Award. I’m sure you received our (many) emails, so read the article below to find out the results. Your actions throughout the voting process were astounding – from posting on your blogs and facebook pages to tweeting and sending out emails to friends and families. Thank you for that, and for all your support.

James Price is the President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

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06
May 2010
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MS and Stem Cells

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All month we’ll be posting links to articles, videos and facts about MS and stem cells on our blog and social media pages.…

All month we’ll be posting links to articles, videos and facts about MS and stem cells on our blog and social media pages.

In addition, we have two special projects planned.

The first is a multi-part series about the Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study, an ongoing trial in which a team of researchers are re-growing the immune systems of MS patients with stem cells. It’s pretty amazing stuff, and it’s happening right here in Canada. We’ll be talking to people involved in every aspect of the study: the doctors and researchers, patients and their families, and those working behind the scenes to ensure that projects like this are being funded and incorporated into standard care. The first part of this series is an article (see below) by Jennifer Molson, patient number six in the study.

The second project involves you. People have lots of questions about how stem cells are being used to treat MS. So this month, if you have a question or a message, send it to us. We’ll compile the responses and and pass them along to a team of MS experts: Dr. Harry Atkins, one of the physicians leading the MS Research Study; Jennifer Molson, a patient in that study; and Marjorie Bowman, RN, the study’s Research Coordinator. At the end of the month, we’ll share their responses on our blog.

So get your questions to us – send us an email, post on our facebook page, make a comment on our blog or give us a call – this is a rare opportunity to get answers directly from those treating and receiving treatment for MS.

We hope you’re as excited about these projects as we are, and that you’ll follow along on our blog and social media pages as we explore how stem cells are being used to treat MS.

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06
May 2010
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38 Days in May: Treating MS with Stem Cells

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There are some pretty incredible things on the horizon for the treatment of MS, and we plan to share them with you all month long.…

There are some pretty incredible things on the horizon for the treatment of MS, and we plan to share them with you all month long. UPDATE: There are so many things, in fact, that we have extended the month of May by a week. Now you can follow along until May 38th (or June 7th, if you’re using a more traditional calendar).

We’ll be posting a series of interviews with the researchers and patients involved in the Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Research Study, where doctors are re-growing the immune systems of MS patients using stem cells. All that, plus lots of links to articles, videos and facts about MS and stem cells. We hope you’ll follow along as we explore how stem cells are being used to treat MS.

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04
May 2010
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Stem Cells Win a Webby

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You did it! And we can’t thank you enough.

When the stemcellfoundation.ca website was nominated for a Webby Award we were thrilled — it’s such a big award and to be one of five finalists worldwide was a great honour.…

You did it! And we can’t thank you enough.

When the stemcellfoundation.ca website was nominated for a Webby Award we were thrilled — it’s such a big award and to be one of five finalists worldwide was a great honour.

But to win — and to win the People’s Voice Award — makes it that much more meaningful. It shows how widespread the support for stem cell science has grown.

Thank you! Your support was incredible, and we’re thrilled that you, and so many others, believe so strongly in the importance and power of stem cell science.

Here are just a few examples of your support:

Fantastic blog posts by David Eaves and Lee Buckler.

Cool photo instructions from @natashalcd

Tweets from @billstrong, @robynrussel, @artezonline, @feilu108, @jimtill @dishanw, @stemcellnetwork, @donambridge and many, many more.

Not to mention the countless emails, phone calls, facebook posts and other creative ways of getting the word out. Thanks to all of you for helping stem cells win a Webby and showing the world how important this field is.

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28
Apr 2010
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Your goals beat ours in Stem Cell Shinny

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Over the past month, we — and stem cell science supporters across the country — have been Shinny-ing for stem sell science.…

Over the past month, we — and stem cell science supporters across the country — have been Shinny-ing for stem sell science.

In March, the Foundation staff held a game of street hockey in Ottawa. We got together on a Saturday morning, spent time together, talked stem cells and played hockey. Another Shinny game was hosted by Alessandra Pasut, whom you may remember from her profile. Read about how her team caught “stem cell fever” here.

We set a modest goal for our games — we wanted to raise $1,961 to recognize the discovery of stem cells in Canada in 1961. But it would seem that your goal was a little higher. Between the two games, Stem Cell Shinny raised almost $2,500.

Just as important was the time spent engaging in some truly Canadian activities — playing hockey, eating timbits and talking stem cells. A resounding success, is what we’d call it, and we plan to make Stem Cell Shinny a yearly tradition.

We’ve also got some other interesting friend-raising events in the works. Up first is the Stem Cell Patio Party in June. Intrigued? We’ll be posting details soon, so check back on a regular basis.

Thanks to everyone who shinny-ed, donated and helped out.

Trefor Munn-Venn is VP of Operations & Development at the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. And if you think he likes shinny, you should see him in front of a barbeque.
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28
Apr 2010
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Game On!

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It started with a simple question: “Do you want to be a Stem Cell Shinny-er?” And a simple answer: “Yes, of course!…

It started with a simple question: “Do you want to be a Stem Cell Shinny-er?” And a simple answer: “Yes, of course!

I posted a team profile online, sent a few emails and recruited some friends for the game. Then we gathered on a Sunday afternoon to play some shinny. It was a beautiful day, perfect for street hockey.

Team Stem Cell Talks

In line with tradition, we started out by singing “O Canada”.  Then it was GAME ON!

We decided to play shinny beginners against shinny experts with a special referee keeping an eye on the game. To distinguish between the two teams we used different Canadian Stem Cell Foundation buttons and stickers — we ended so covered in different colours it looked like we had some sort of stem cell fever!

Given that some of us had never seen a hockey stick before in our lives, we set up a brief lesson with the experts showing the beginners how to handle a stick, and what NOT to do with a stick.

Alessandra and her teammates covered in stickers and buttons

But it was all in vain — the game turned out to be a funny mix of hockey and soccer, with some of us playing with our hands and some with our feet, all the while reinventing the rules. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of laughs.

I would like to thank the friends that came to the game, all of those who donated and sponsored our team, and, in particular, I would like to thank the Foundation for bringing scientists a step closer to the people.

Alessandra Pasut is a PhD student in the Rudnicki lab at the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research. She’s now a shinny expert.

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26
Apr 2010
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Those who like it, like it a lot

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A couple of weeks ago, we asked if you thought it was a good idea to create Canadian Stem Cell Foundation Clubs at Canadian universities.…

A couple of weeks ago, we asked if you thought it was a good idea to create Canadian Stem Cell Foundation Clubs at Canadian universities. And your answer came through clearly — you said “yes”. In fact, no one said “no”.

Like us, it would seem that you see a great way for university students to play a direct role in raising awareness about stem cell science, educating each other, and helping to build commitment. Exciting.

The real question is “Now what?”

So you said yes. And while the number of votes wasn’t huge, what was clear based on comments and other feedback was that those who voted are seriously behind the idea. (We also know that we asked university students to vote during the middle of exams — sorry about that.) The next steps are very important.

We have some ideas about what the Clubs could look like, but we need your thoughts and your leadership — let’s face it, you’re going to be the ones bringing this to life.

So, if you want to see a club at your university, and you’re prepared to help bring it to life, here’s what needs to happen:

  • Send me an email tmunnvenn@stemcellfoundation.ca and let me know what school you’re at, your program and year – and include your contact information.
  • Pull together a small group at your school and make sure you understand what you particular school’s requirements are for a Club. Think about what you could do to: raise awareness; get others involved; and raise funds.
  • Give some thought to what the Foundation could do to support your activities.

If we start to see a few groups form, we’ll find a way to get together — in person, on the phone, Skype — and make a plan for establishing the Clubs.

You’ve led this. And it’s a good idea. Keep leading.

(Thanks again Samuel. )

Trefor Munn-Venn is VP of Operations & Development at the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. And he thinks that Samuel is on to something — and other people think so too.
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22
Apr 2010
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Thanks for your support

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We’ve been nominated as one of five finalists worldwide for a Webby Award in the category of Activism. Webbys are big — these are the Oscars of the Internet.…

We’ve been nominated as one of five finalists worldwide for a Webby Award in the category of Activism. Webbys are big — these are the Oscars of the Internet. A panel of judges is evaluating us against only four other sites. We’ve got our fingers crossed.

But we’re also eligible to win a People’s Voice Award, and we’ve been asking you to vote for us.

Voting is now closed

We’ll find out if we’ve won on Tuesday, May 4th. Thank you to everyone who voted and helped spread the word.  Your votes helped others recognize the importance of stem cell science. Already, we’ve seen many more people visit the site and send us notes with questions and comments. You’re bringing stem cells to the foreground.

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22
Apr 2010
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Impressive little buggers, aren’t they…?

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David Kent

I was sitting at a microscope, looking down at one single cell – a nice tiny circle, not much different from an air bubble. …

David Kent

I was sitting at a microscope, looking down at one single cell – a nice tiny circle, not much different from an air bubble.  The senior PhD student in our lab shrugged as though this was old hat: “been there done that, now let’s get to work” – but I just sat there, jaw agape, thinking about how this air bubble was about undergo the most rigorous test that exists to tell whether or not it is a stem cell.  If successful this tiny sack of proteins would leave my field of view and complete billions of cell divisions on its way to single-handedly re-creating the entire blood system of a mouse.

The field of stem cell science has proceeded with breathtaking speed over the last ten years, but one thing is for certain – Stem Cells and Canada have a much longer relationship.  Pioneering experiments by Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch are internationally heralded as the first formal proof that stem cells exist. One year, at the Canadian Stem Cell Network’s (SCN) annual meeting – Jim and Ernest had just given a lunchtime talk –the SCN ran a small test. They asked, “If you were directly supervised by one of these men, please stand up”, then “If you were supervised by one of these people standing, please stand up.” After a few iterations, I realized that my grandparents (Jim and Ernest) had a pretty enormous brood: over 80% of the meeting’s 300 + delegates.  I now have thousands of stem cell cousins and siblings, and in my current lab in Cambridge, I just met my nephew for the first time.

Photo courtesy of highwaygirl67 on flickr

Photo courtesy of highwaygirl67 on flickr

It seems a long way from the street hockey and rock fights in St. John’s to my current research on diseases originating from blood stem cells – but if there’s one thing I’ve learned along the way, it’s that great things can come from the most unexpected of places.  It often has much to do with the people around you and a shared enthusiasm for what you are doing. Scientific research is all about inspired discovery – yes, even rock fights can help you discover things – and cultivating the culture of enthusiasm for discovery and critical thinking is the lynch pin for a successful research enterprise.  It means that the role of scientists, especially those in training to be scientists, is an important one and it is the big driver behind my extra-curricular efforts in groups like Let’s Talk Science, and with my newest project, which is a blog on issues affecting the training environment for scientists in our country.  At UBC, Let’s Talk Science consumed a fair amount of time outside the lab, but was a huge personal and professional benefit to me through its community involvement in the school system of British Columbia and through its work within the university to develop the communication and public outreach skills of graduate students and post docs.

I was lucky enough to co-ordinate the program with two amazing co-coordinators (Erika Eliason and Beth Snow).  Both Erika and Beth were also involved in a team of ~20 science trainees who gathered over three years to discuss the ideas and research that form the building blocks of the Black Hole blog which originally posed the question: What’s wrong with the science enterprise? The blog website hopes to reach out to science trainees, established scientists, and science policy makers across the country to identify the (sometimes worrying!) trends in science training, to inform them of excellent resources within and outside of the country, and to stimulate discussion on possible solutions moving forward.

Through this science advocacy work, I’ve learned an amazing amount from the people I’ve interacted with.  One of the most impressive things is the amount of interest there is from the public.  Canadians, when engaged, are actually extremely curious about stem cells and science in general.  I think the biggest roadblock is on the engagement front, but groups like the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, Stem Cell Network, the Science Media Centre of Canada, Let’s Talk Science and numerous others have really generated some excellent energy over the last decade, which is hopefully turning the tide.  Another great thing about public outreach is that the enthusiasm is contagious – day to day work in the laboratory is sometimes mundane, but when you can step back and look at the bigger picture about why you are doing what you do, you often rekindle the spark that originally drove you into that field in the first place.

What’s new and exciting about stem cells?

Even since I started my PhD (2003) at the Terry Fox Lab, there have been massive advances in the field.  Perhaps the biggest of these from a “why you should care” perspective are the reprogramming of cells and the accelerated rate of gene sequencing technologies.  Both of these came directly from the funding of basic “curiosity-driven” research and have evolved to have major clinical implications.  It is now possible to take a normal adult cell from anybody and fiddle with just 4 genes to bring it back to something that looks an awful lot like the most potent stem cells we know so far – embryonic stem cells.  This is very new stuff and lots of work needs to be done, but the possibilities are tremendous and warrant substantial investigation.

Secondly, the revolution in the speed of gene sequencing now makes the $1000 genome believable and nearly achievable.  Currently, it sits somewhere in the $30,000-50,000 range, but it’s on the way down.  I was at a talk last month, and one of the scientists who was responsible for these advances said: “If we tried to get funding for this today from a granting agency, many would throw it out immediately for being too blue sky” – this is because when they were uncovering the chemistry that drove this technology (in the early 1990s), it had no practical, translatable applications.  This runs counter to current policies which constantly seek proposals with direct clinical relevance or market translatability – a practice that is extremely short sighted.

Excitingly though, we are truly on the cusp of entering the era of personalized medicine (for diagnosis and treatment) and I hope that we do enough to inspire the next generation of scientists while bringing the support of the general public along with us.  For young scientists like me pursuing an academic research career, this means a concomitant emphasis on training/teaching, public outreach, and a general willingness to remove the blinders that academics often have firmly affixed to their heads.  Stem cells have a large role to play in this new age of biology and medicine and I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity and inspiration to be a part of it.

David Kent is currently completing post doctoral research on blood stem cell disorders at the University of Cambridge, UK under the supervision of Professor Tony Green.  He completed his PhD in 2009 in blood stem cell biology under Professor Connie Eaves and has been a member of the Stem Cell Network since 2003.  David will also be one of the Stem Cell Network’s regular trainee bloggers, which can be found at http://scnblog.typepad.com, and continues to write his independent blog at http://scienceadvocacy.org.

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21
Apr 2010
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1,000 students and counting

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At the end of the very first Annual Scientific Meeting of the Stem Cell Network (SCN) in 2001, attended by 50 or so eminent stem cell researchers, Dr.…

At the end of the very first Annual Scientific Meeting of the Stem Cell Network (SCN) in 2001, attended by 50 or so eminent stem cell researchers, Dr. Connie Eaves, now Director of the Terry Fox Labs at the BC Cancer Agency, came up to me and said “That was a great meeting, but next time you really need to bring along some students”.  “Great”, I said, “How about 20?”.  “No”, said Connie, “I was thinking about 200!”

And Connie was right.  Since that first year, our annual meeting has grown to accommodate nearly 400 delegates, the vast majority of whom are students. The meeting is thriving because of it.  Students give talks, present nearly 140 posters, exchange ideas, network with other labs, and are exposed to some of the most leading edge science in the world.

What I had missed, being new to science, was how important graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are to the field.  While it is the researcher who gets headlines when a groundbreaking discovery is made, it is because a student has spent thousands of hours undertaking the research, coming to the lab at all hours of day and night — because cells don’t stop growing at 5pm on Friday in the middle of an experiment.  It’s a student who has examined hundreds of slides and studied reams of data looking for anomalies. And it’s a student who’s been researching prior publications looking for linkages and clues to their own findings.  Researchers are mentors, guides, communicators and the sources of inspiration, motivation and insight.  But without students there would be no research, and no SCN.

As a result, the SCN invests heavily in their professional development.  We put on technical courses on topics like iPS Cells and FACS, and on broader topics such as stem cell ethics and intellectual property management.  We fund lab exchanges and travel to project team meetings, recognizing the central role students play in our research program.  And we have sought to involve students in all aspects of what we do.  There are trainees on our Research Management and Policy Development Committees. They provide input and direction to our communications and education program.  And more often than not students themselves take the initiative, and all we do is encourage, enable and get out of the way!  There couldn’t be any better example of this than the recent StemCellTalks program put on last month at the MaRS Centre.

As of the end of March 2010, close to 1,000 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, undergraduate co-op students and technicians had participated in a SCN project, workshop, committee or our Annual Meeting.  We consider this the most important thing the we can do to ensure Canada’s long-term capacity to benefit from stem cell research, and to, not only provide hope to patients, but to deliver clinical therapies in the decades to come.

Drew Lyall is the Executive Director of the Stem Cell Network, and is learning to think big about students.

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16
Apr 2010
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What’s a “Webby”?

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Just about the most prestigious award you can receive on the internet—and we’ve just been nominated.

Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by the New York Times, the Webby Awards honour websites, interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile web sites.…

Just about the most prestigious award you can receive on the internet—and we’ve just been nominated.

Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by the New York Times, the Webby Awards honour websites, interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile web sites. This year nearly 10,000 entries were received from over 60 countries, so being a finalist is a pretty big deal.

Our website [www.stemcellfoundation.ca] is one of only five finalists worldwide in the category of Activism. This is exciting not just because we might win, but because of the opportunity to reach so many more people about the importance of stem cell science. You might ask, “Will you really reach that many more people?” The answer is yes. The number of visits to the site has increased by 2,000% since our nomination was announced.

If you haven’t been to the site, I encourage you to go. You’ll find compelling videos and other content in plain, clear language. You’ll also find the link to the Stem Cell Charter—a universal statement of principles—that is helping to guide decision-making around the world.

Who Picks the Winners?

There are two answers to that: A panel of (highly esteemed) judges — and YOU!

The Webby Awards are chosen by the International Academy of Design Arts and Sciences. Judges include:

    • Musician David Bowie

 

    • Internet inventor Vinton Cerf

 

    • Martha Stewart

 

    • The Weinstein Company’s Harvey Weinstein

 

    • Arianna Huffington

 

    • Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake

 

    • Ogilvy’s Chief Digital Officer Lars Bastholm

 

    • “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening and

 

    • Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson.

As a nominees, we’re also eligible for the People’s Voice award — that’s where you come in.

From now until April 29th, you can cast your vote to help us win the People’s Voice award. Yes, this is a great chance to support the Foundation. But it’s bigger than that. This is a great chance to share with friends, family and co-workers the importance of stem cell science and its potential to bring healing to so many people. So point your mouse HERE and press that button. And once you’ve voted (one vote per email address), get your friends to vote by tweeting, posting, emailing—whatever you can think of to get the word out.

Winners will be announced on May 4th, 2010 and honoured at a ceremony in New York City on June 14th where they will have an opportunity to deliver one of the Webby’s famous five-word speeches. Past Webby Award winners—and their speeches—include:

    • Al Gore – “Please don’t recount this vote.”

 

    • Stephen Colbert – “Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.”

 

    • Michel Gondry – “Keyboards are full of germs.”

(And while we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, what do you think ours could be?)

Thanks for supporting us. Thanks for voting, for sharing and for being a champion for stem cell science.

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16
Apr 2010
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Stem Cells: The Next Generation

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April marks the end of the university calendar for many students — students who are active in advancing the field of stem cell science and helping to explain its importance to others.

April marks the end of the university calendar for many students — students who are active in advancing the field of stem cell science and helping to explain its importance to others. To recognize their efforts and the important role they play, we are profiling students who make a difference. This week we’re speaking with Paul Cassar, a graduate student at the University of Toronto.

What did you hope to be when you grew hope?

Well, when I graduated from junior high we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I had two answers. I wanted to be a rock star and I wanted to be a scientist. It’s funny, but I think with all the excitement surrounding the field of stem cell science, I got pretty close.

How did you become interested in stem cells?

While I was doing my undergrad, I spent some time doing research at a major pharmaceutical company and I started to look outside conventional therapies and think about novel ways to treat disease, not just to treat the symptoms but try to treat the underlying mechanisms and get to the root of these diseases.  A lot of psychological maladies are the result of degraded regions of the brain. We already know that for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but there’s evidence that it’s true for schizophrenia and depression. I found that very interesting, so I started to read the works of a lot of stem cell scientists in Canada, like Derek van der Kooy and Sam Weiss, and I really got interested in neural stem cell populations.

I really believe that the future of medicine is going to involve a number of cell-based therapies, including pluripotent stem cells and tissue-specific stem cells and other progenitor cells. And I think that these therapies will make their way into medicine in our lifetime. That’s why I found stem cell science so interesting to begin with.

When you’re done your PhD, what are your plans for the future?

I think because the stem cell field is so new, there are a lot of opportunities. As a grad student, I don’t think we necessarily have to take the standard path and become a professor or research scientist. What this field needs are people who have training in research but are looking to combine that training with a career in other fields, like law, politics and medicine. For the field to really grow, we need people in various professions who have passion and understanding of what this new field can offer, and be willing to incorporate it.

You helped spearhead StemCellTalks, tell us how that event came to be?

StemCellTalks was something that came together very serendipitously. Last year, I took on a position as a Let’s Talk Science Coordinator at the University of Toronto, and I realised that I had access to a lot of resources. Around the same time, I was approached by the Stem Cell Network (SCN) to become involved in a stem cell education initiative to create an online resources for high school teachers to teach their students about stem cells. When I got involved in that, I got connected with a lot of people at the SCN as well as the Genetics Policy Institute (GPI).

I took part in a meeting with SCN, GPI and the National Association of Biology Teachers to create this website. But most of these organizations were American and I thought, “This is wonderful and we’re creating such a useful tool, but what is the likelihood of this information reaching Canadians.” So I saw the opportunity to use some of those ideas and mold them into what became StemCellTalks. I was fortunate enough to have two colleagues and friends who were also interested in getting information about stem cells to the public, David Grant and Angela McDonald.

David came to me one day and said “I want to do a symposium, something similar to TEDTalks or Café Scientifique or Science Rendezvous, where we take stem cells to the public.” As a Let’s Talk Science coordinator, I said to him, “Well, I can’t get you the public, but I can get you a room full of high school students.” So everything kind of came together.

How did you decide what kinds of events to run?

I came from an undergraduate degree where we did a lot of problem-based learning. You sit down at a round table with six students and a professor and just talk about a particular issue. And there would be some kind of prompt to get the discussion going. I really benefited from that style, and I thought high school students would too.

The idea of having grad and post-docs there, came from the idea that we would have the experts, the scientists, up on stage and then we would transition that discussion to smaller breakout groups, a table of high school students with a grad student facilitating. I think the students really liked it. With high school students, they’re so inquisitive and so courageous, they’re totally willing to ask questions. I guess it’s the environment in which they learn, usually in smaller classes than a standard university lectures. They brought that to the symposium, and that’s what made it successful.

What do you hope that students take away from StemCellTalks?

I think it’s important to remember that although the field of stem cell science moves quickly, we can’t expect treatments and cure to manifest overnight. At StemCellTalks, we try to convey this by holding debates and ethical sessions, so students understand that while stem cells have a lot of power and potential, we’re at the point where we’re still using stem cells to learn how tissues develop and organize. And as we learn more, we’ll move more towards the clinic, but that’s in the future. But we’ll get there.

What have you learned about communicating with high school students and the general public?

As much as we focused on getting a lot of students in the room, it’s equally important to get a lot of educators in the room, and to educate the educators. The beauty is being able to transfer this knowledge to teachers, so that they’re able to transfer it to various cohorts of their students. In future events elsewhere in the country and ongoing years, we plan to invite as many teachers as we do students.

Paul Cassar is a graduate student at the University of Toronto in the lab of Dr. Bill Stanford.

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15
Apr 2010
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The Power of Conversation

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StemCellTalks started as a conversation among friends.  Paul Cassar, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, had been looking for a way to reach out to the public about stem cell science.…

StemCellTalks started as a conversation among friends.  Paul Cassar, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, had been looking for a way to reach out to the public about stem cell science. When Paul returned from the World Stem Cell Summit last year, he was excited about the success that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine had had with their initiatives. Paul decided to recruit two other graduate students, David Grant and me, Angela McDonald to create a unique stem cell outreach program in Canada.

Over the past year, we visited classrooms across the greater Toronto area, teaching students about the basics of stem cell biology, giving an overview of the different types of stem cells — from adult to embryonic to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells — and exploring their applications. From the first in-class presentation that David and I gave, we knew that high school students were eager to learn about stem cells.

In one classroom, we asked the students to think about which type of stem cells would be most appropriate for the treatment of Type I Diabetes. One student approached me during the brainstorming session to ask why someone would bother isolating a patient’s adult stem cells, reprogram them back to a pluripotent state and then differentiate them into the types of cells needed to treat diabetes. “Why wouldn’t we just go from one type of adult somatic cell directly to another?” I agreed and told her that this is a focus of many research labs around the world. About four months later, on February 25, 2010, Marius Wernig’s group at Stanford University published the first study of this kind in Nature, demonstrating the conversion of fibroblasts to functional neurons. This just shows how dynamic the field is: the questions that students ask are being answered in real time by researchers working in field.

The enthusiasm of students during in-class presentations inspired us to create StemCellTalks, a day-long event for high students where they learn about stem cell biology and its real-world applications from leading Canadian scientists. Paul, David and I organized the first symposium on March 12, 2010 at the MaRS Collaboration Centre in Toronto.

The excitement and flow of ideas was palpable at StemCellTalks Toronto. Drs. Derek van der Kooy and Peter Zandstra debated the use of multipotent versus pluripotent stem cell populations for the treatment of Type I Diabetes. Following this debate, students broke into groups and discussed the use of different types of stem cells for therapies, considering such issues as stem cell differentiation potential and tumorigenicity. The session ended with a vote for pluripotent stem cells (Peter) or multipotent adult stem cells (Derek). Each breakout session group held up a whiteboard with their pick. It was close, but Derek won the audience over. However, many groups couldn’t choose a winner and stressed the potential of both types of cells. One group’s whiteboard read, “Derek for now…Peter for the future.”

Even though I had been a bit nervous going into my first grade 12 classroom, after I saw how excited the students were about stem cell research I knew that I wanted to be involved in outreach in a meaningful way.  Following the first few brainstorming sessions Paul, David and I had, I became even more excited.  A lot of hard work went into the first StemCellTalks symposium and many people helped out and donated their time and expertise to make it a success.  On the day of the StemCellTalks event, the students were so engaged and thrilled to be learning from the scientists, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.  It was a really unique environment bringing these people together to talk about current scientific research.  I hope that this initiative will continue on a national level for years to come.

Angela McDonald is a University of Toronto graduate student in the labs of Drs. Janet Rossant and Bill Stanford. She spends her (limited) spare time engaging people about stem cell science.

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12
Apr 2010
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Student Profile: Alessandra Pasut on cute stem cells and the importance of communication

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April marks the end of the university calendar for many students — students who are active in advancing the field of stem cell science and helping to explain its importance to others.

April marks the end of the university calendar for many students — students who are active in advancing the field of stem cell science and helping to explain its importance to others. To recognize their efforts and the important role they play, we are profiling students who make a difference.

How did you get into stem cell research?

The first stem cells I saw were beating cardiomyocytes (cardiac muscle tissue cell) in a petri dish. As soon as I saw them, it was like “Oh, wow!” From a scientific point of view, it was really exciting, as much as it’s a pretty simple thing. But it was a turning point. I had been studying biochemistry, which was completely different, but when I saw those cells, I thought, “Okay, I’m going to study that,” and I decided to do my masters thesis on stem cells and then my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Michael Rudnicki. I had no background in this area, so I had to learn everything, starting with what stem cells are. I got really excited about their potential — they’re pretty cute and unique compared to other cells.

Cute?

I had been working with cell lines, which are great, you can stain them and look at them, but they’re just there, they’re don’t move, they don’t do anything. Those stem cell derived cardiomyocytes were beating. And then I saw muscle fibres twitching in a petri dish. Every time I talk to people about it, they’re like, “Sure, I guess so,” but when you take them into the lab and actually show them, they think it’s really cool.

So showing people helps them understand what you do?

Yes, I feel that there’s often a missing link, between what you’re able to say and what you can do if you show people. I was talking to my sister and telling her about what I was up to, but it wasn’t until I brought her into the lab that she really understood. She looked into the microscope and saw a cell. Then the cell moved. She got really excited and started asking questions about building clusters of cells, and then building organs and the potential of that.

Not everyone has a sister who works in a stem cell lab, so how do you translate that “aha” moment to others?

I think we need more interaction between scientists and people outside the lab. In Canada, it’s common to have lab tours, where students come and see what you’re doing. The more you do that kind of thing, the more people get excited because they actually know what you’re talking about. As scientists we use a lot of scientific terms because, well, this is our world, it’s how we communicate with each other. And as much as you can try to find easier words and use images to make yourself understood, at some point you’re going to use the word “cells” and petri dish” and “pipette. So, if you can show people those things are and what they look like and you make them touch stuff, it’s easier to bring them into your world. It’s easier to make them understand and easier to communicate properly.

Most of the time, scientists aren’t used to communicating with people that way . We think, “Oh, that’s too complicated” or “I can’t talk about science if I’m not going to use words like ‘epigenetic’ or ‘transcriptome.'” Being a scientist is a very specific type of job. It takes time and a lot of study to become one because you need to acquire skills and knowledge. And the more you acquire that knowledge, the more you lose the ability to communicate that knowledge to people that are not scientists. That’s why it’s important that we open our labs to the public. The more you open up the lab, the more people understand about what you do and realize that you’re doing something cool and interesting and worthwhile.

How are you helping people understand stem cell science?

I had been looking for something besides lab work, and was put in touch with the organizers of StemCellTalks in Toronto. Their plan was to have similar educational events across the country, and I quickly became involved in planning the event in Ottawa. StemCellTalks is an outreach initiative to gather high school students for a one-day symposium where they learn about stem cells from a biological point of view with an emphasis on their application.

At the Toronto StemCellTalks, some of the most successful activities were the debates, where established scientists would open up a discussion on the use and application of stem cells, giving the audience different points of view. That’s exciting, because that’s what science is. As a scientist, you get used to having very strong opinions and having to defend them. And it was great to see the kids taking sides and saying, “Yeah, that’s a good point, but the other scientist had a good point, too and my mom told me….” You open up a debate, and that’s why I think it’s very important to have events like these. People start to really think about stem cells, and have their own opinions. They start to think critically, which is awesome. These kids might one day be politicians or lawyers or scientists. It doesn’t really matter what they become, but they’re going to have knowledge about stem cells.

What will the Ottawa event look like?

The StemCellTalks in Ottawa will be very interactive, with stem cell activities, debates and a quiz game with prizes. There will be an ethics session as well, and the speakers will, for the most part, be Ottawa-based scientists, lawyers, doctors and politicians involved in stem cell science and stem cell policy. The event is scheduled for March of 2011, and it will be the third city to host a StemCellTalks event, after Toronto and Vancouver. Calgary and Montreal will host events next year as well.

What’s the best part of being a scientist?

I think the best part of science is interacting with your peers or with your supervisors and mentors. I feel like you build a whole set of interpersonal skills just working with them. Scientists are unique, and have these really strong personalities — which you need to develop to defend your ideas, but leave room for open discussion.

Alessandra Pasut is a PhD student in the Rudnicki lab at the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research. She’s also a Stem Cell Shinny-er.


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08
Apr 2010
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Now that’s a good idea

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We love a good idea. We like to think that we’ve had a few, but we got an email recently with an idea that made us all stop, look at each other and say “Now that’s a good idea!”

The email came from Samuel, a student at McGill University.…

We love a good idea. We like to think that we’ve had a few, but we got an email recently with an idea that made us all stop, look at each other and say “Now that’s a good idea!”

The email came from Samuel, a student at McGill University. It said,

“Why don’t we create a Canadian Stem Cell Foundation Club at my university?”

Smart.

You know that the Foundation’s committed to helping Canadians understand why stem cell science is important. You’ve probably heard about the Stem Cell Charter and how it’s providing universal principals to help guide the future development of the field. And you may have seen posts about Stem Cell Shinny—our recent friendraising event. All of these are ways of raising awareness, educating each other and building commitment.

What struck us about Samuel’s idea was that it helps to accomplish many of the objectives of the Foundation. It also provides a great way for university students—who have been some of our most active and creative supporters—to get more involved and take greater ownership.

So we want to know what you think–respond to our poll. We’ll leave the poll open until Monday, April 19th (at noon).

If you’re interested in getting involved, participating or leading the creation of a club at your University, send me an email at tmunnvenn@stemcellfoundation.ca. Let me know what school you’re at, your program and year – and include your contact information.

If your commitment is there, we’ll try and do this together. Thanks.

And thanks to Samuel.

Trefor Munn-Venn is VP of Operations & Development at the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. And he thinks that Samuel is on to something.
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08
Apr 2010
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We won!

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We’ve been using the web and social media to reach people in innovative ways, and to be as interactive as possible.…

We’ve been using the web and social media to reach people in innovative ways, and to be as interactive as possible. So we were thrilled when we found out that our website won an Applied Arts Magazine Interactive Award! Thank you to all our supporters – your ideas and feedback have been invaluable. We’ll continue to spread the word about stem cell science in creative ways, and we’ll continue to ask for your input along the way.

Congratulations to Manifest Communications, Jam3 Media and everyone involved in creating the Stem Cell Charter and Canadian Stem Cell Foundation websites.

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31
Mar 2010
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Shinny, Stem Cells and Timbits – Oh, Canada

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It’s true. We were really cold. But this past weekend, over 20 people gathered to play a round of shinny at the “Shins of Steel” game in Ottawa.…

It’s true. We were really cold. But this past weekend, over 20 people gathered to play a round of shinny at the “Shins of Steel” game in Ottawa. It was a mix of Foundation staff, volunteers, friends and family who participated in the first ever Stem Cell Shinny game, kicking off a month-long awareness and friendraising campaign in support of stem cell science.

The game was friendly, but the players were serious. I gave a quick welcome, we divided into teams, the ref (Jennifer Molson, a stem cell transplant recipient and Canadian Stem Cell Foundation volunteer extraordinaire) dropped the bright orange ball, and scrambled to get out of the way. The game was on.

The game lasted almost two hours, with the occasional break for timbits and hot chocolate. (A more Canadian way to spend a morning has not yet been invented.)

Thank you

These kinds of events are a lot fun. But they succeed because of the individuals who give their time, their ideas, and yes, the money to support them. I’m grateful to each of the people who played a role in this event. You made it fun, you surprised us with your humour, your donations, and your ideas, and you reminded us how important supporting stem cell science is to you.

If we can do it, so can you

Probably most striking about this event was how easy it was. The Foundation has put the tools in place to create your event—your own shinny game or something else altogether. We played in a school parking lot, I borrowed nets from a neighbour (and have kept them), got sticks from some friends (I don’t even play hockey), and made a quick run to Tim Horton’s for coffee and hot chocolate. It was that easy.

I’d encourage you to hold a game yourself. If you want to learn more about Shinny, host your own game or become a supporter, visit the Stem Cell Shinny homepage.

Trefor Munn-Venn is VP of Operations & Development at the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. He’s also better at street hockey than you’d expect.
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24
Mar 2010
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New Directions for a New Foundation: Talking with James Price, CEO

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This week we’re speaking with James Price, the President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, about current and future campaigns, and what we hope it will all lead to.…

This week we’re speaking with James Price, the President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, about current and future campaigns, and what we hope it will all lead to.

Q: Tell us a bit about the Foundation and what you’re doing now.

A: The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation is about a year old now, and was established to be a champion for stem cell science. A big part of that is building awareness and engaging people, in the field as well as the general public. Listening is a big part of that.

Stem cell science is a field that has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat a vast array of diseases, and it’s important that everyone is informed about what’s happening and has a say in the direction it takes. As an organization, we want to hear what you have to say and we’ll use your ideas, feedback and guidance to create initiatives. The Stem Cell Charter was a starting point for that.

Q: What’s happening with the Stem Cell Charter now?

A: The goal of the Charter was always to build a community that is informed about stem cell science and passionate about its advancement. It was our first initiative as an organization and we spent a lot of time and effort trying to establish a large, dedicated following. I think we’ve been pretty successful at this. Over 3,000 people have signed up since it was launched last September and it’s taken on a life of its own. More and more people are signing up every day and we’ve seen individuals and organizations take on the cause and champion it on their own. Now that this is happening, we will continue to promote and support the Charter community, but move from building the community to serving its members, as well as the general public.

Q: What other initiatives does the Foundation have going on?

A: We’re focusing on creating an open dialogue — getting input from as many sources as possible and creating initiatives and campaigns that reflect that. So, our activities right now revolve around promoting awareness of stem cell science and encouraging people to give us guidance and feedback. For example, we’re using social media to get input into what kind of events we run over the course of the year. Last month we ran a poll asking fans of our facebook pages to vote for a disease area that we should run an awareness campaign for. The poll ran for a week, and Multiple Sclerosis emerged as the choice in the end. So, based on that, we’re running a month-long awareness campaign in May focusing on stem cells and MS. We will continue to run polls like this in the future for awareness campaigns and other types of public outreach events.

Q: Besides the MS awareness campaign, what other ways will you engage with the public?

A: We’re trying to be creative in everything we do. Besides our social media strategy, we’re also pursuing friendraising. Our first event is Stem Cell Shinny, where people play shinny and raise awareness and funds to advance stem cell science. I think it’s a great way to celebrate stem cell science in a pretty unique and fun way. We’ll continue to run events like this in the future, and our hope is that others will come up with their own creative events too.

Q: What can people do to help advance stem cell science?

A: Learn about stem cell science. A well-informed community is a strong community, and one that can move stem cell science forward in a responsible way.

Share your knowledge with others. The more people know about stem cell science, the richer the dialogue will be.

Share your ideas with us. One of the best things about a new organization like ours is that everyone can help shape it. Send us an email, phone us, post on the wall of our facebook pages, comment on our blog. We read it all, and we’re thrilled when people tell us what they think.

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18
Mar 2010
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Shinny for Stem Cell Science

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There’s nothing that gets Canadians excited like hockey. It’s a source of national pride, something that defines us on the international stage.…

There’s nothing that gets Canadians excited like hockey. It’s a source of national pride, something that defines us on the international stage. We think Canadians should be equally proud of stem cell science. Ever since stem cells were first discovered in Toronto in 1961, Canadians have been leaders in the field, making startling breakthroughs on a regular basis. So, we’ve come up with a way to combine these two great Canadian innovations: Stem Cell Shinny.

Here’s the idea: over the next month, people across the country play street or ice hockey and raise awareness and funds to advance stem cell science. You can organize a game in your neighbourhood, invite friends and family to play and ask them to support you with a donation to the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

If you don’t organize your own game, join someone else’s. And if you don’t play hockey, support a friend’s team, or even ours. The Foundation staff will be hosting a game in Ottawa on Saturday, March 27th. Click here to learn more about our team, the “Shins” of Steel.

Find out more about Stem Cell Shinny, sponsor a team or set up your own personal Shinny site, by visiting the Stem Cell Shinny homepage.  Check back here and on our facebook and twitter pages for updates over the next couple of weeks. We hope to see you on the ice (or off)!

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16
Mar 2010
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People’s Choice Awareness Campaign: MS

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As we’ve said before, we look to you for direction and leadership, and we want to give you the information and resources you want.…

As we’ve said before, we look to you for direction and leadership, and we want to give you the information and resources you want. So, over the past week, the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation ran poll to determine which disease area we would run our first awareness campaign for. We asked our facebook and twitter fans to vote and, in the end, you told us you want to see an awareness campaign for Multiple Sclerosis.

What comes next? For a full month we’ll conduct an awareness campaign about MS and Stem Cells. We’ll profile patients who have undergone stem cell therapies for MS, doctors treating the disease and scientists working in the lab to develop new treatments. We’ll provide articles, videos and other material about how stem cells are being used.

We’ll continue to ask for your input along the way, so check back regularly to see what we’re up to. And if you have any ideas or questions in the meantime, email us at info@stemcellfoundation.ca.

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12
Mar 2010
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Diabetes in the lead, Muscular Dystrophy close behind

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There are only three days left to vote in our Awareness Campaign Poll, and the results are far from certain. So far, Diabetes is in the lead, followed closely by Muscular Dystrophy.…

There are only three days left to vote in our Awareness Campaign Poll, and the results are far from certain. So far, Diabetes is in the lead, followed closely by Muscular Dystrophy. Multiple Sclerosis and Stroke aren’t too far behind though, so if you want to see a campaign for either of those disease areas, or any of the others on the list, vote here by Monday, March 15th, 2010.

The results so far:

More about the Awareness Campaign:

We’ve identified six disease areas for which stem cell treatments hold great promise, and we’re asking you to vote for one. You pick, and we’ll run a month-long awareness campaign. We’ll post articles and videos about the disease area and new stem cell research in the area. We’ll conduct interviews with researchers, physicians and patients. And of course, we’ll showcase your stories relating to the winning disease area all month long.

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08
Mar 2010
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A Champion for Stem Cell Science

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Canada has tremendous stem cell expertise. Drs. Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch first discovered stem cells nearly 50 years ago at the Ontario Cancer Institute.…

Canada has tremendous stem cell expertise. Drs. Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch first discovered stem cells nearly 50 years ago at the Ontario Cancer Institute. And for five decades, Canadian scientists have made some of the most significant discoveries in the field.

In discussion with Dr. Till, he shared that their initial discovery — and the many that have followed — are the result of Canada’s collaborative spirit. “Science isn’t done by individuals” he says, “it’s done by teams”. And we agree. We believe that realizing the full promise of stem cells also relies on engaging the public — all of us —  in advancing stem cell science.

The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation was established to champion the importance of stem cell science for the health of all humanity. But champions don’t act alone. We’re working with scientists, community leaders and the public. We’re providing education and leadership. We’re building partnerships. All to accelerate the speed at which research can be translated into clinical applications and therapies for people everywhere.

We’re inspired by patient advocates and health charities who are hungry for better information and want progress now. We’re motivated by scientists and clinicians who commit every day to make a difference in the lives of patients.

Stem cells are full of promise. Realizing that promise requires each of us to act. And the Foundation will continue to share ideas — small and large — that you can act on. We hope you will share your ideas as well. Together we can build on this Canadian legacy.

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08
Mar 2010
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The Stem Cell Charter

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The Stem Cell Charter was the first initiative of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. It was a call to action in support of stem cell science that you answered with passion and enthusiasm.…

The Stem Cell Charter was the first initiative of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. It was a call to action in support of stem cell science that you answered with passion and enthusiasm.

Since its release last September, we’ve been astounded by the Charter’s ability to bring people together and inspire them to speak out about stem cell science in powerful and creative ways.
Some highlights from the journey so far:

  • September 22, 2009: The Charter is released at the World Stem Cell Summit in Baltimore, MD. The Charter website, “Rock Star Scientists” video and 11 mini-videos are released at the same time. The Charter receives national press attention.
  • September 25, 2009: 1,000 people sign the Charter in the first 72 hours after its release.
  • October-December, 2009: Organizations from around the world became organizational signatories to the Charter, including the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), Stem Cell Network (SCN), Australian Stem Cell Centre, Cancer Stem Cell Consortium, Genetics Policy Institute (GPI) and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) among others.
  • November 12-14, 2009: The inaugural Stem Cell Charter Sign&Share Rally. Dedicated volunteers from across the country spread the word using social media in innovative ways. The result: 1,000 new Charter community members in just 48 hours.

The success of the Charter allows the Foundation to move forward with the support of a committed community of stem cell supporters. As of today, 3,267 individuals and 10 organizations have signed the Charter. Not a bad start, and the community is growing. Are you as excited as we are about where this movement is heading?

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08
Mar 2010
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Stem Cell Pioneers

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You might say that Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch didn’t exactly go looking for stem cells, but stumbled upon them in their search to understand the effects of radiation in a new atomic age.…

You might say that Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch didn’t exactly go looking for stem cells, but stumbled upon them in their search to understand the effects of radiation in a new atomic age. It’s not unusual. A mixture of planning, scientific rigor, human creativity, and serendipity often coincide for breathtaking scientific discoveries-along with the insight to understand what’s in front of you, and build from there.

Their discovery happened in 1961 in Toronto, Canada while injecting bone marrow into mice. They observed small raised lumps growing on the spleens of the mice and speculated that each lump arose from a single marrow cell: perhaps a stem cell. With this new knowledge, their research provided a scientific explanation for why bone marrow transplantations work.

The team went largely without public recognition until 2005 when Till & McCulloch were awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research-a deeply prestigious award. At that time, the Lasker Foundation made the importance of Till and McCulloch’s contribution indisputable: “Their work laid the foundation for all current work on adult and embryonic stem cells and transformed the study of blood-cell specialization from a field of observational science to a quantitative experimental discipline.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

See Dr. Jim Till speak about the discovery that spawned a new field of research.

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04
Mar 2010
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What a Difference

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The Foundation is the champion for stem cell science and in the few short months we’ve been in operation we’ve been busy.…

The Foundation is the champion for stem cell science and in the few short months we’ve been in operation we’ve been busy. We released the Stem Cell Charter, produced “Rock Star Scientists” and 11 other videos explaining stem cell science in plain language, established an exciting plan for the years ahead, and launched a social media program.

It’s been exciting, and what’s really amazed us are the actions that you’ve taken in response. Thousands have signed the Charter and every day the numbers grow a little more. You’ve shared personal and compelling experiences with us and with each other. You’ve made donations and pledges without being asked.

The truth is that your leadership and action are more important than our role as a champion. So our commitment is to listen to you. Here’s an example: the Foundation will conduct two online awareness campaigns this year that focus on a disease or illness where stem cells are already making a difference or are expected to in the not too distant future. We want you to choose one of the diseases that we will focus on. Follow this link and vote for the area you would like us to rally around-you choose; we’ll run the awareness campaign. You have until Monday, March 15th to cast your vote.

And this is just a start. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll find that we’re reaching out for your ideas and guidance, and taking your lead.

We can’t do this without you.

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