Aug 2015

Dr. Bernard Thébaud

Neonatal expert believes stem cells will revolutionize medicine

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 Dr. Bernard Thébaud believes that stem cells can help the tiniest of babies breathe easier. And now he has a grant to help make that happen.

As Ottawa South News reported this month, Dr. Thébaud’s team is among 22 at the Ottawa Hospital awarded more than $28 million through a new grant offered by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the federal government’s health research funding agency. His team received $3.2 million.

“It’s a unique opportunity because instead of classical funding for three to five years for one project, it’s three projects for seven years,” Thébaud told the publication. “It gives you the peace of mind to work and get the job done.”

Dr. Thébaud’s six full-time researchers are working to translate stem-cell research into clinical treatments that can save lives. They have published papers showing that mesenchymal stem cells from umbilical cords could be used to treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia, or BPD, a disease that affects about 10,000 premature babies in North America every year.  These newborns receive oxygen via machines to help them survive. However this also damages their lungs and impedes development.

“We are one of the very few labs in the world that is banking on the therapeutic potential of these stem cells that may likely revolutionize medicine,” he told the publication.

Within 18 months, Dr. Thébaud plans to conduct a pilot study with up to 20 newborns to show that the stem cell therapy is feasible. If the results are positive, he will launch a randomized control trial, leading to the development of a new treatment.

His team is also investigating the use of another type of cord-blood stem cells, endothelial progenitor cells, to stimulate blood vessel growth and overall lung growth.

“It’s not about doing the science for the science’s sake,” he told the Ottawa South News. “It’s about driving the science and medication into the clinic.”

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