By Stacey Johnson, Director of Communications, Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine
There is much joy and celebration in becoming a centenarian.…
By Stacey Johnson, Director of Communications, Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine
There is much joy and celebration in becoming a centenarian. This March, my grandmother turns 100. If she had one wish, I know it would be for renewed physical vitality. Her mind is strong, but her body is giving out.
Despite huge progress in research, there won’t be a cure for age-related macular degeneration in time for her to benefit, nor will she be able to replace her electronic pacemaker with one made from stem cells, but she’s excited by the promise of stem cell research, even if it won’t impact her directly.
Now is a time for optimism in the regenerative medicine (RM) field, especially in Canada. In October, the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation announced its national Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan and barely a month later, the Province of Ontario awarded $3.1 million to launch the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM).
The regenerative medicine community in Canada is very connected thanks to more than a decade’s worth of targeted encouragement from the federal government – in the form of funding – and efforts by the Canadian Stem Cell Network to break down silos and promote collaboration. With all the key stakeholders working together to develop products and shepherd them through clinical trials to reach patients, the community has research excellence and political will on its side.
The Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), a unique not-for-profit group that is solely focused on developing and commercializing RM technologies, was involved with both of the recent announcements. The goal of the Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan is to produce five to 10 therapies within the next 10 years. The OIRM has been established to translate stem cell research into curative therapies for major degenerative diseases. CCRM is the commercialization partner for both groups and is co-leading OIRM with the Ontario Stem Cell Initiative.
With an aging population and Canadian health care costs – direct and indirect – estimated at $190 billion annually, finding treatments and cures is imperative. The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, OIRM and CCRM will coordinate efforts to move promising stem cell treatments from the bench to the bedside.
My grandmother is unlikely to see cures in her lifetime, but success is feeling closer every day. And that’s something worth celebrating.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation website describes living with Type 1 Diabetes this way:
“It’s difficult. It’s upsetting. It’s life-threatening. It never goes away.…
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation website describes living with Type 1 Diabetes this way:
“It’s difficult. It’s upsetting. It’s life-threatening. It never goes away. But, at the same time, people with Type 1 Diabetes serve as an inspiration by facing the disease’s challenges with courage and perseverance and don’t let it stand in the way of achieving their goals.”
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, over 9 million Canadians are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes, approximately 10% of whom suffer from Type 1. Of the three subdivisions of this disease (Type 1, Type 2, and gestational), Type 1 diabetes begins in childhood, which is why it’s also known as juvenile diabetes.
Diabetes arises either when the pancreas is unable to produce a glucose-controlling hormone called insulin, or when the body does not use the insulin it produces properly. If untreated, patients are at risk of developing further complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease, and nerve damage.
It was a Canadian, Dr. Frederick Banting, shown here on a millennial postage stamp, who discovered insulin and, working with Dr. Charles Best, came up with a treatment for the disease that has no doubt saved millions of lives since its development in the early 1920s.
However, there is no cure for diabetes.
Known for their unparalleled capacity to produce hundreds of different types of cells, stem cells likely will play a vital role in research towards finding a cure for diabetes.
Beta cells store and release insulin. Researchers are testing whether stem cells can grow into beta-cell producing factories or as cells that support beta cell repair. Either way, the goal is to return the body’s insulin to normal levels. This means that, in the future, people with diabetes could be free of dependence on daily insulin injections.
In fact, researchers believe a stem cell therapy for diabetes may be much closer than for other diseases because diabetes is very well understood and can be traced back to the loss of a single cell type. Many groups around the world are working on new stem cell approaches to this disease to transition basic research into clinical trials and applications. For more information see Toward Treatments.
October 1 has marked the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month for almost 30 years. Each year, cancer survivors, their friends and loved ones wear the iconic pink ribbon and take part in fundraising events to raise awareness and help find a cure.…
October 1 has marked the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month for almost 30 years. Each year, cancer survivors, their friends and loved ones wear the iconic pink ribbon and take part in fundraising events to raise awareness and help find a cure.
This disease will directly affect one in nine Canadian women, according to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
Although there’s no one known cause, researchers believe that inherited and/or environmental factors must be present for breast cancer to develop.
A new film about Canadian Annie Parker, who survived breast cancer, ovarian cancer and a tumour behind her liver, dramatizes her tireless efforts to encourage researchers to examine a genetic link to breast cancer. Decoding Annie Parker, highlighted in the Globe & Mail this week, stars Oscar winner Helen Hunt as U.S. geneticist Dr. Mary-Claire King, who identified the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2.
While we can’t change the genetic characteristics we inherited from our parents, we can alter the environmental factors such as physical activity, alcohol/drug consumption, diet, and exposure to harmful chemicals.
Cancer originates from cell mutation, which occurs when a cell’s DNA has been damaged. Instead of repairing itself or dying off, it lives on and produces more cancer cells.
Many scientists believe cancer cells are propagated by a small subset of cells with stem cell properties – and that these cancer stem cells must be eliminated to cure the disease. This thinking is based on a 1994 Canadian discovery that a small number of tumour-initiating cells could generate leukemia in mice. Researchers are now working to identify and isolate these cancer stem cells to detect breast cancer earlier, predict its prognosis, and provide drug therapy targets.
While there is currently no Health Canada or FDA approved stem cell therapy for breast cancer, research has progressed to clinical trials. Many of these studies involve using new methods to monitor the cells and DNA present in patients by assessing tissue samples before surgery, at the time of removing the cancer, and for many years afterwards. Other studies are testing whether cancer stem cell biomarkers can be used to predict responses to therapies for early stage breast cancers. Click here for more information about stem cells research and efforts to cure breast cancer.
As September draws to a close, it’s important to remember that the back-to-school month has been designated Childhood Cancer Awareness since 1987.…
As September draws to a close, it’s important to remember that the back-to-school month has been designated Childhood Cancer Awareness since 1987.
According to Childhood Cancer Canada, 15,000 Canadian kids are diagnosed with cancer each year. This disease is responsible for more deaths in children than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined.
Cancer develops as a result of disruptions in cell division and growth. Instead of dying off like normal cells, cancer cells live on and produce more cancer cells. Though the exact cause of this cellular mutation is unclear, contributing factors to this disease may be hereditary and/or environmental.
Because radiation treatment would damage young cancer patients’ still-developing brains, transplanting hematopoietic – or blood-forming – stem cells following chemotherapy is now a standard practice and can increase survival rates for those with brain, bone, and immune cell tumours.
The process involves harvesting hematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood to transplant and resupply blood cells. The procedure has led to successful cures for potentially lethal forms of leukemia.
Research teams are focused on developing new methods for applying hematopoietic stem cells to treat different types of cancers – more specifically for solid tumour cancers. For more information on the research that’s underway, click here.
When we set about revamping our website here at the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, we realized that a subject as exciting and loaded with potential as stem cells ought to have a website that captured that sense of excitement and explored that potential.…
When we set about revamping our website here at the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, we realized that a subject as exciting and loaded with potential as stem cells ought to have a website that captured that sense of excitement and explored that potential.
Not that our previous version didn’t. Our original site was innovative enough to win a Webby Award – the online equivalent to an Oscar – in 2010. But it was created in our early days and, just like the field of stem cell science, we have moved ahead, taking on bold new challenges our old site could no longer encompass.
The first step was to simplify the message. As the national voice and champion, our essential role is to unite scientists, business and community leaders behind accelerating the process of turning stem cell research into clinical applications to treat or cure currently untreatable and incurable diseases. We were able to distil that role into the seven words trumpeted on our home page: Help Us Help Stem Cells Help You.
Everything found on the new site fans out from there. The Toward Treatments section, for example, is there to explain – in language everyone can understand – how far along stem cell research is in addressing diseases that have perplexed medical science for centuries. The idea is to provide a resource where patients, their families and friends can go to get the straight goods on whether there is a stem cell treatment available or where a potential treatment is in the research-to-clinic pipeline.
‘Watch this space’
Currently, we have 14 diseases/conditions covered, ranging from ALS to Wound Healing. We hope to have a total of 18 prepared by year’s end. Which speaks to the evolving nature of our website. It is a work in progress. For example, our Stem Cell NewsDesk is in “watch this space” mode. The idea with the NewsDesk is to provide regular updates on progress in stem cell research, assess the importance of advances that the mainstream media are highlighting and shine a light on work that may be going unnoticed. It will be the go-to place for fair and balanced reportage of the progress that stem cell science is making. We plan to test run it over the summer and have it operational for the fall.
As for the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, it represents the Foundation’s number one priority for the next two years. Canada needs a properly funded, publicly supported research and development strategy to stay at the forefront of this exciting field of medical research and to move further, faster toward the types of treatments everyone is hoping for. We are in the formative stages of creating the Strategy, but Canadians will be hearing a lot more about it over the coming months.
New features, old favourites
One of the new features on the site is our powerful Legacy Video that outlines Canada’s role in founding and developing stem cell science. Watching it, you can’t help but be impressed by Canada’s remarkable contributions to founding and developing this exciting and important field of research, and to fully appreciate the notion that, ‘If hockey is Canada’s game, its science is stem cells.”
For those who enjoyed the old website, do not despair. We have maintained its most-visited and best-loved elements. The Rock Star Scientists Video that features several of Canada’s leading scientists talking about their work continues to inspire. We encourage you to visit the Stem Cell Charter page and, if you haven’t already, add your name to the thousands of Canadians who believe in the therapeutic potential of stem cells and who have committed to becoming more informed about and engaged in advancing stem cell science.
We built this site to evolve and move forward as the science we champion evolves and moves forward. To explore the potential. Now, that’s exciting.
The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation is on the move – in more ways than one.
After two years of operating out of the Stem Cell Network offices at the Ottawa Hospital, the Foundation is now in new quarters at 6 Gurdwara Road in South Ottawa and a satellite office on Spadina Road in the heart of Toronto.…
The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation is on the move – in more ways than one.
After two years of operating out of the Stem Cell Network offices at the Ottawa Hospital, the Foundation is now in new quarters at 6 Gurdwara Road in South Ottawa and a satellite office on Spadina Road in the heart of Toronto.
The new space is necessary to accommodate exciting new projects the Foundation is rolling out First up is a completely redesigned website with a bold theme: Help Us, Help Stem Cells Help You. Its centrepiece attraction is Toward Treatments – patient-focused summaries of what stem cell researchers are doing in the battle against 14 currently incurable diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Prepared in partnership with the Stem Cell Network, each summary is as authoritative as it is accessible, written in reader-friendly language that makes complicated science easily comprehensible.
Stem Cell NewsDesk
We expect to have the site up and running in the summer and will be adding to it as we build for a major fall launch when another much-needed feature will be ready to go: Stem Cell NewsDesk will provide timely and realistic assessments of advances in research that the mainstream media are highlighting, and shine a light on important work that may be going overlooked.
The idea is to give Canadians a clear understanding of the difference between an incremental advance and a major accomplishment. We anticipate the NewDesk will be the go-to place for fair and balanced reportage of the progress stem cells science is making. Watch for it this fall.
A Canadian Strategy
But that is just a starting point.
The Foundation’s major undertaking over the next two years will be the crafting and implementation of the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy to guide the progress of research and development over the next 15 to 20 years. Wheels are already turning. The Foundation’s formidable Science Leadership Council is the framework for the strategy. We are now recruiting some of the world’s leading thinkers in stem cell science and its application to join a blue-ribbon panel of international experts to provide the global context required to shape the strategy. And we have begun consulting with Canada’s entrepreneurial and philanthropic leaders to get their input— and commitment – to help move the science safely and quickly forward.
The potential of stem cell science to treat diseases and ease suffering is immense. We believe stem cell science is now at a tipping point – a time when potential solutions are on the verge of becoming real ones. The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation is moving forward to help make that happen.
Canada has earned its position globally as a stem cell leader. Canadians made the original discovery of stem cells and have made many of the most important breakthroughs.…
Canada has earned its position globally as a stem cell leader. Canadians made the original discovery of stem cells and have made many of the most important breakthroughs. Our scientists are world-renowned and have trained successive generations of researchers who continue to increase our depth of knowledge in the field.
Larger, Broader Support
Recent years have seen stronger support continue to emerge from Canadians. Last year, the Renew the World Gala celebrated the 50th anniversary of the discovery of stem cells by Canadian researcher Drs. Till & McCulloch.
The gala was attended by 500 influential Canadians from all across the country who showed their commitment to the healing potential of stem cell science. The public declaration of support showed by these celebrities, business leaders and philanthropists has helped to set a new tone and momentum that is growing across Canada.
Today, new leaders are taking up the cause of stem cell science as their own. They recognize the impact that stem cell research can have on the health of Canadians, on our health care system, and on our economy. Our Board of Directors has continued to grow and their guidance, experience, and credibility are bringing greater attention and support to the stem cell cause.
This is For Everyone
Each of us can take small actions to help realize the full potential of stem cell science. Already, we are seeing that potential emerge. Jennifer Molson’s recovery from MS is a moving case in point. These changes are already in motion, but they don’t happen by themselves; they require support from all of us.
Sign the Charter
The first thing you can do is to make a clear statement of support for stem cell science. You can sign the International Stem Cell Charter to make that support public. Better yet, you can share it with others after you’ve made your declaration. Just follow the link HERE to get started.
It’s important for each of us to continue to learn more about stem cell science. Not only is the field moving quickly, but it’s also essential that we take a grounded, measured approach over the long-term in order to achieve the outcomes we all hope for. We don’t all have to become scientists, but it’s possible for each of us to learn the fundamentals about stem cells and to share what we learn with others.
A great place to start is the book that we commissioned that tells the story of the discovery of stem cells. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the characters and moments that have defined our past and will shape our future.
Support the Foundation
Together we can shape Canada’s stem cell future. We have a strong foundation on which to build—a foundation we can be proud of. We have scientific leaders working in world-class research laboratories. We have leaders willing to lend their influence and work together to provide direction and to help achieve the healing potential that stem cell science offers.
What we need is you. We need your support. We need your voice. As you sign the Charter and continue to learn more about stem cell science, consider how you can support the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.
Most discussions about stem cells focus on their promise and potential—about what could happen. And rightly so. There’s still so much to accomplish.…
Most discussions about stem cells focus on their promise and potential—about what could happen. And rightly so. There’s still so much to accomplish. But it’s also important for us to take an honest look at where we’ve been and then look at what impact stem cell science can have.
A Canadian Legacy
Stem cells represent one of the most significant developments in modern medical science They were discovered by Canadians researchers Drs. James Till & Ernest McCulloch in Toronto just over 50 years ago.
Their work was not only recognized with a Lasker Award—often considered the North American equivalent of the Nobel Prize—but their discovery caught the attention of generations of Canadians scientists who have taken it further.
Today, Canada’s researchers are globally recognized leaders. In a review published in Nature Immunology in 2002, almost half of the 35 most significant stem cell papers published in the last half of the 20th century were authored by Canadians. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about neural stem cells, retinal stem cells, skin stem cells, cancer stem cells or others, you’re going to be talking about Canadians. We’re also internationally respected for our expertise in the ethical, legal and social issues that arise from stem cell science.
Transforming Health—Transforming Health Care
The potential of stem cell science to help those who are living with disease and other serious medical conditions is clear. With stories such as those of Jennifer Molson, we know what’s possible and we can see some early successes.
When we think about the impact of stem cells on our health care system, the potential is no less important. For example, there are about 1,500 spinal cord injuries in Canada every year. The direct costs of treatment are approximately $500,000 per case. If stem cell science can help to repair spinal nerve cells, we could potentially save as about $800 million. Treat diabetes: $3.5 billion. Heart disease: $1 billion. Strokes: $700 million. Include Parkinson’s, hemophilia A, MS and macular degeneration, and we could reduce health care costs by as much as $8.5 billion annually.
There’s also the economic impact of new infrastructure and support industries as stem cell therapies begin to reach patients. In fact, even in 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that the regenerative medicine market would grow to as much as $500 billion globally.
Canada is better positioned than most to continue to lead in this field. We were the pioneers of stem cell research and we continue to be globally recognized leaders. We have the opportunity to transform our health care system and create new opportunities in the economy. And at the centre of all of this is the health of those we love. The lives that can be transformed as new therapies reach the clinic.
Discussions about the healing power of stem cells are often focused on the future. We hear about the promise and potential yet to come.…
Discussions about the healing power of stem cells are often focused on the future. We hear about the promise and potential yet to come. And there’s no doubt that we are still in the early days in terms of the clinical applications of stem cells to treat or even cure disease. But it’s not all in the future.
Meet Jennifer Molson
The upcoming issue of Shoppers Drug Mart’s “glow” magazine shares a powerful story about how stem cells are helping people today.
The article focuses on Jennifer Molson who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1996. Jennifer was young, healthy, and active. She was working full time, going to college and volunteering with the Ottawa Police Youth Program
But all that was about to change. She started to experience numbness and tingling in her hands and was constantly tired. Soon after diagnosed with MS. After a short time her condition started to decline quickly and her diagnosis was changed to what’s called Secondary Progressive MS—an even more serious condition.
In 2001, Jennifer entered the Canadian MS Bone Marrow Transplant Study led by Drs. Mark Freedman and Harold Atkins at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa. The study was funded by the MS Society with the goal of re-growing the immune systems of patients with MS using the patient’s own stem cells.
Do Stem Cell’s Heal?
Jennifer’s experience was not an easy one, nor was it without risks—of seizures, sterility, and even death. But over time, things started to change for her—gradually at first. She tells us that it took almost two years before she started to feel better.
In fact, the improvements that Jennifer experienced were unexpected. The goal of the study was to stop the progression of MS, but Jennifer’s results went further.
If you ran into Jennifer today, you probably wouldn’t know what she’s been through. She’s left her wheelchair behind and today she works full time, she can drive, and she’s completely independent (she even skis).
Jennifer Molson is an inspiration. She’s a reminder that while stem cell research still has a long way to go, it’s changing lives today. We encourage you to read more about Jennifer’s moving story in the upcoming issue of “glow” magazine.
Canada has shown true leadership in stem cell science. The original discovery was made here and the pioneering work of James Till and Ernest McCulloch’s established the foundation for generations of scientists who continue to show their leadership.…
Canada has shown true leadership in stem cell science. The original discovery was made here and the pioneering work of James Till and Ernest McCulloch’s established the foundation for generations of scientists who continue to show their leadership.
New Leaders Are Supporting the Stem Cell Cause
Today, as scientists make new discoveries and we move closer to the clinical application of stem cell science, new leaders are joining the cause. Philanthropists, celebrities, and business leaders are committing to support stem cell science and ensuring that Canada builds on its legacy of leadership in stem cell science.
Their leadership is raising awareness of the cause. They are lending their expertise, making financial commitments, and sharing the promise of stem cell science with others. Their contributions are critical in providing guidance to the Foundation as we build broad-based support among Canadians.
A Distinguished Business and Community Leader
As the work of the Foundation grows, our Board of Directors has grown as well. Today, we are pleased to introduce one of the newest members of the Board, Mr. Stephen Snyder.
Mr. Snyder is a distinguished business and community leader. He has led the growth and development of a number of major Canadian businesses as President & CEO including TransAlta Corporation, Camco Inc., Noma Industries Ltd., and GE Canada. He is also a Director of Intact Financial Corporation and a past Director of CIBC, Canadian Hunter and Zenon Environmental.
His commitment to the community is no less impressive. Mr. Snyder has been asked to Chair a number of prestigious charitable and non-profit organizations including:
- The Calgary Stampede Foundation Campaign
- The Alberta Secretariat to End Homelessness
- The Canada-Alberta ecoEnergy Carbon Capture & Storage Task Force
- The Conference Board of Canada
- The Calgary Zoological Society and the Zoo’s “Destination Africa” capital campaign
- The Canadian Electrical Association
- The United Way of Calgary and Area
Mr. Snyder’s contributions have been widely recognized. In 2005, he was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the province. In 2008, he received the Honorary Associate Award from The Conference Board of Canada, and in 2009 he was awarded the Chamber of Commerce Sherrold Moore Award of Excellence.
We are honoured that Mr. Snyder has chosen to dedicate his time and his passion to the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. His leadership complements the commitments made by our other distinguished Board Members to reinforce Canada’s continued leadership in the field of stem cell science.