Yuliya Shcherbina

29
Jun 2015
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National public cord-blood bank officially launched

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Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has officially launched the national public cord-blood bank.

“This is a significant achievement for the Canadian health care system,” Dr.

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has officially launched the national public cord-blood bank.

“This is a significant achievement for the Canadian health care system,” Dr. Graham Sher, CBS Chief Executive Officer, said in a press release. “Through our hospital partners, we are able to provide expectant mothers the opportunity to donate to a national public cord blood bank; increasing the chances for patients who need a stem cell transplant to find a match.”

As we reported in several articles here, the cord blood stored in the bank will be available to patients across the country who are unable to find donors among their families or donor lists. Cord blood cells are  a rich source of stem cells, which can be transplanted to treat several diseases, such as leukemia and lymphoma. With only about 25% of patients able to find a suitable donor among family members, most patients need help from an unrelated donor.

CBS now has five collection sites in four cities: Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Brampton, Ont. Two facilities, one in Edmonton and the other in Ottawa, will test, process and freeze individual units of cord blood, while collections in Vancouver and Brampton will help increase the possibility of patients from different ethnic backgrounds — including Asians, Aboriginal People and multi-ethnic people — finding a match.

“Some of the mixed racial groups are the hardest to find a match for,” Dr. Jan Christilaw, President of BC Women’s Hospital, told the CTV News. “So the more diverse the bank is, the better the chance that if you really need cord blood stem cells for any particular reason, you’ll be able to find it.”

CBS has raised $12.5 million of the $48-million cost of the program for the next eight years, with contributions also coming from provincial and territorial governments (Quebec excluded as it has its own public cord blood bank).

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26
Jun 2015
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Colon cancer: stem cells could lead to new target for treatment

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Canadian researchers have identified a new stem cell population in the colon linked to tumor growth. Their findings, published in Cell Stem Cell, could lead to new treatment approaches.…

Canadian researchers have identified a new stem cell population in the colon linked to tumor growth. Their findings, published in Cell Stem Cell, could lead to new treatment approaches.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of death in Canada. On average, 423 Canadians are diagnosed with this type of cancer every week.

There are two kinds of stem cells in the intestine: a rapidly recycling one called Lgr5+ and a second slower one. Researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario have identified the second stem cell in the colon, one that is long-lived and radiation resistant. They also found that this new stem cell population not only gives rise to tumors in the colon, but also helps sustain and support the growth of the cancer.

According to Dr. Samuel Asfaha, a clinician-scientist at Lawson Institute and an assistant professor of medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University, the identification of the cellular origin of colorectal cancer is critical to understanding how cancer arises and identifying new targets for treatments.

“These findings are exciting as we have identified an important new target for cancer therapy. It is also proof that more than one stem cell can give rise to and sustain tumors, telling us that our cancer therapy needs to target more than one stem cell pool.” said Dr. Asfaha in a press release.

Until now, physicians believed that radiation therapy was effective. “With this new information, we now know this is not always true and we must find new forms of therapy to target the disease,” said Dr. Asfaha.

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18
Jun 2015
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New company aims to improve stem cell transplants for leukemia

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Some time ago we blogged about the research into leukemia stem cells done by a team at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of Université de Montréal.…

Some time ago we blogged about the research into leukemia stem cells done by a team at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of Université de Montréal. This week, IRIC announced it is moving forward.

In collaboration with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), IRIC Commercialization of Research (IRICoR), has launched ExCellThera, a spin-off company that will improve the process of cord blood stem cell transplantation for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Click here to discover how stem cells are being used to treat leukemia and other blood disorders on our Toward Treatments page.

“We are excited to be working with CCRM to launch this new IRICoR spin-off company located in Montréal, which includes novel stem cell-expanding molecules that were initially identified and funded at IRIC via an early-stage investment from IRICoR,” Michel Bouvier, CEO of IRICoR, said in the IRIC press release.

ExCellThera is based on novel proprietary intellectual property related to the expansion of stem cells developed by two members of our Foundation’s Science Leadership Council: Dr. Guy Sauvageau, Scientific Director & CEO of IRIC, and Dr. Peter Zandstra, Professor at Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto and Chief Scientific Officer of CCRM.

A Phase I and II clinical trial, designed to test the ability of ExCellThera’s stem cell expansion approach, will begin this year at the Maisonneuve-Rosement Hospital in Montreal, and will grow to include Sainte-Justine Hospital and other centres in the near future. The trial will involve up to 25 patients suffering from AML.

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03
Jun 2015
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James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, left, Sandra Henderson, Senior V-P of BMO Financial Group’s Eastern Ontario Division, and Tim Kluke, President & CEO of the Ottawa Hospital Foundation Credit: Erin McCracken, Ottawa South News

Investing in the future: BMO makes $1-million donation

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BMO’s  $1-million donation to support stem cell and regenerative medicine research in Canada is “an investment in the future,” says a senior executive with the leading financial institution.…

BMO’s  $1-million donation to support stem cell and regenerative medicine research in Canada is “an investment in the future,” says a senior executive with the leading financial institution.

“As the generations go on, it’s important for us to give back to the people we work with, we live with, who are in our communities,” Sandra Henderson, Senior Vice-President of BMO Financial Group’s Eastern Ontario Division, told Ottawa Community News.

The investment includes a $500,000 donation to the Ottawa Hospital’s Regenerative Medicine Program at the General campus’ Sinclair Centre, and $500,000 to the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, of which $250,000 will go to the hospital’s new research initiatives and $250,000 to other national activities.

“By Canadian standards, that’s probably one of the largest corporate gifts specifically directed to stem cell research and regenerative medicine in the country,” James Price, Foundation’s President & CEO, told Ottawa Community News. “Canada is a leader in stem cell research, just as the Ottawa Hospital is.”

Currently, the Ottawa Hospital’s Regenerative Medicine Program has 250 scientists, research staff and trainees working at the Sinclair Centre for Regenerative Medicine and the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research.

The lab of Dr. Duncan Stewart, Executive Vice-President of Research at the Ottawa Hospital and Senior Scientist of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute’s Regenerative Medicine Program, has been renamed the BMO Financial Group Laboratory in honour of the bank’s financial contribution.

 

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28
May 2015
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Hitting a nerve: researchers turn blood into neural cells

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Stem cell researchers from McMaster University have found a way to turn human blood cells into neural cells, opening the door to new approaches to understanding and treating pain.…

Stem cell researchers from McMaster University have found a way to turn human blood cells into neural cells, opening the door to new approaches to understanding and treating pain.

The patented technique, described in a paper published in Cell Reports, involves extracting stem cells from blood and converting them into neural cells — like those found in the brain and the nervous system — over about a month.

“No one has ever done this with adult blood, to make this repertoire of neural cells, “Dr. Mick Bhatia, Director of McMaster University’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, told CTV News.

Dr. Bhatia and his team started working on the project after successfully converting skin cells into blood a few years ago. The researchers thought it would be useful to be able to make other kinds of cells from blood because it is easily accessible, regenerates on its own, and the resulting cells can be personalized.

“And so with this technology, blood could become a building block for neural cells,” Dr. Bhatia explained in CTV’s report.

The findings could lead to treatment advances for those suffering with chronic pain or nerve diseases. The researchers are  hopeful that one day it will be possible to take a blood sample from a patient and quickly produce a million nerve cells. They could then study those cells to better understand why certain people feel pain or why others experience numbness.

New pain medications that would specifically target neural cells, rather than just block the perception of pain, might also be developed thanks to the novel technique.”Pain is really poorly understood right now, and the drugs available are not well characterized,” Dr. Bhatia said in the CTV news report. “Most are narcotics and opioids that are addictive and they’re not very specific to the cells you’re trying to target.”

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14
May 2015
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Vision loss trial cleared in California

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Millions of people in North America live with varying degrees of irreversible vision loss. Some good news is that a novel stem cell therapy for retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an inherited condition that slowly damages the retina and can result in blindness, has been cleared by the U.S.…

Millions of people in North America live with varying degrees of irreversible vision loss. Some good news is that a novel stem cell therapy for retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an inherited condition that slowly damages the retina and can result in blindness, has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start a Phase I clinical trial.

The therapy for RP, which affects 1 in 3500 Canadians, was developed by Dr. Henry Klassen, Associate Professor at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, UC Irvine School of Medicine, and will consist of injecting patients with stem cells to help replace the cells destroyed by the disease and to save those cells that are not damaged yet.

The goal of the trial, which will involve up to 16 patients, is to evaluate the safety and identify side effects of the treatment. Although it is early to speak about a cure for RP, the researchers are hopeful.

“This milestone is a very important one for our project. It signals a turning point, marking the beginning of the clinical phase of development, and we are all very excited about this project.” said Dr. Klassen in the CIRM press release.

The trial has received almost $20 million in funds from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

“One of the goals of the agency is to provide the support that promising therapies need to progress and ultimately to get into clinical trials in patients. RP affects about 1.5 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of inherited blindness in the developed world. Having an effective treatment for it would transform people’s lives in extraordinary ways.” Jonathan Thomas, Ph.D., J.D., Chair of the Governing Board of the CIRM, said in the CIRM press release.

Click here to discover more about how stem cells are being used to understand and treat eye diseases on our Toward Treatments page.

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13
May 2015
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The state of regenerative medicine industry: ARM report

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The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM), a global advocacy organization active since 2009, has recently published the ARM Quarterly Data Report on the state of regenerative medicine industry.…

The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM), a global advocacy organization active since 2009, has recently published the ARM Quarterly Data Report on the state of regenerative medicine industry.

The report includes analysis of trends and metrics provided by 580 therapeutic companies worldwide. More than 300 of these companies are located in North America.

“This sector has come off a strong year in 2014 and 2015 is off to an even stronger start. As 2015 continues to unfold, we anticipate more high-value deals, and increased investor and public interest in what advanced therapies can offer.” Patricia Reilly and Nancy Dvorin from Informa Business Intelligence, Pharma and Healthcare, ARM’S data partner, wrote in the report.

Higher investments in advanced therapies are in fact among the major trends of the first quarter of 2015. Currently, 486 clinical trials (phase I, II or III) are underway. More than 1/3 of current clinical trials are in oncology, and more than 1/10 are in the cardiovascular area.

Source: Alliance for Regenerative Medicine

Current Clinical Trials by Therapeutic Category. Source: ARM Quarterly Data Report

Additional ARM reports, released at the end of each quarter of the year, will include updates to the current information. To view and download the Q1 Report click here.

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29
Apr 2015
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Getting ready for Till & McCulloch Meetings 2015

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After last year’s conference in Ottawa, the Till & McCulloch Meetings are heading to Toronto.

The event — named in honor of Drs.

After last year’s conference in Ottawa, the Till & McCulloch Meetings are heading to Toronto.

The event — named in honor of Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch, who proved the existence of stem cells in the early 1960s — brings together Canada’s leading stem cell scientists, clinicians, bioengineers and ethicists, along with representatives from industry, government, health and non-governmental organizations from around the world.

This year’s agenda includes a special session with the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, presented by James Price, Foundation President & CEO, and Dr. Alan Bernstein, Chair of the Board of Directors and President & CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

The Till & McCulloch Meetings, organized by the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, the Stem Cell Network and the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and sponsored in part by the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, will take place at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto from October 26-28, 2015.

Registration is now open. Click here for more details.

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24
Apr 2015
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Dr. James Shapiro

A whole new way to treat diabetes?

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Canadian researchers are getting closer to what could become a new treatment option for type 1 diabetes.

Dr. James Shapiro, Director of the Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the University of Alberta, has recently published a study in Nature Biotechnology describing a novel way of transplanting islet cells from a donor’s pancreas underneath the patient’s skin.…

Canadian researchers are getting closer to what could become a new treatment option for type 1 diabetes.

Dr. James Shapiro, Director of the Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the University of Alberta, has recently published a study in Nature Biotechnology describing a novel way of transplanting islet cells from a donor’s pancreas underneath the patient’s skin.

In 1990s, Dr. Shapiro, one of the world’s top insulin experts, co-developed the Edmonton Protocol to treat diabetes through transplantation of islet cells into the patient’s liver. Although the technique offered hope at first, Dr. Shapiro realized the liver wasn’t the ideal site for transplantation as most of the cells were quickly destroyed.

“Until now it has been nearly impossible for transplanted cells to function reliably when placed beneath the skin,” says Dr. Shapiro in a University of Alberta article published this week. “In these studies, we have harnessed the body’s natural ability to respond to a foreign body by growing new enriching blood vessels. By controlling this reaction, we have successfully and reliably reversed diabetes in our preclinical models.”

The new approach is an evolution of the Protocol, and according to Dr. Shapiro it could soon become a new standard for treatment—not only in diabetes, but in other diseases as well.

“For any area of regenerative medicine that requires replacing old cells with new — this opens up an incredible future possibility for successful engraftment beneath the skin.” says Dr. Shapiro.

Dr. Shapiro is also involved in other studies for treatment of type 1 diabetes. He is a scientific advisor for ViaCyte, the American company that is conducting a new clinical trial for diabetes with one or more sites to be launched in Canada. Click here to read more about it.

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16
Apr 2015
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STEMCELL Technologies — Life Sciences Company of the Year

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STEMCELL Technologies, the largest biotech company in Canada, will be honoured tonight with the “Life Sciences Company of the Year” award from LifeSciences BC.

STEMCELL Technologies, the largest biotech company in Canada, will be honoured tonight with the “Life Sciences Company of the Year” award from LifeSciences BC.

Founded in 1993 by Dr. Allen Eaves, a Canadian Stem Cell Foundation Director, STEMCELL Technologies is a privately owned biotechnology company that develops specialty cell culture media, cell separation products and ancillary reagents for life science research. The Vancouver-based firm employs some 680 people who manufacture over 2,000 products for scientists in more than 70 countries worldwide.

Each year, a significant portion of STEMCELL’s profits is reinvested in stem cell research — a strong indication of its founder’s belief in the potential of the field.

“Stem cell technology is going to revolutionize medicine; that’s the reality,” says Dr. Eaves, President & CEO. “Medicine will be delivered by cells and we will be using cells to repair the body. There is this huge potential out there.” Click here to read our full interview with Dr. Eaves.

He also believes that to succeed in delivering new stem treatments, Canada needs the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan. Created by a coalition of scientists, medical doctors, leaders from major health charities, industry experts and philanthropists, the Strategy sets the course for Canada to lead the way in bringing up to 10 breakthrough therapies to the clinic by 2025.

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