14
Apr 2016
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Stem Cells 101: Forums offer hype-free facts

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If everything you’ve ever heard was true, cure-all stem cells would soon be available at your corner drug store or clinic.…

If everything you’ve ever heard was true, cure-all stem cells would soon be available at your corner drug store or clinic.

But it’s not that simple.

Which is why the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine is co-sponsoring Stem Cells 101 — a series of free public events in four Ontario cities beginning next week.

The sessions, held in partnership with Western University, McMaster University, SickKids Research Institute, the University of Ottawa and The Ottawa Hospital, are geared to provide the general public with hype-free, up-to-date, science-based information on stem cells and regenerative medicine: Such as:

  • What are these incredible cells?
  • What stem cell therapies are currently available and what’s on the horizon?
  • How are we getting to the next big breakthrough and what are the societal considerations for this research?

The sessions feature top Canadian researchers and clinicians explaining their work and talking about the potential and possibilities. Here’s the lineup:

Tuesday, April 19: London
7-9 pm at Western University More information

Stem cells: Powerful tools for regenerative medicine. Dr. David Hess, scientist in the Molecular Medicine Research Group and Krembil Centre for Stem Cell Biology at Robarts Research Institute.

Can I please have a stem cell injection doc? Dr. Alan Getgood, orthopedic surgeon at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic in London.

The ethics of stem cell research. Dr. Carolyn McLeod, professor of philosophy and an affiliate member of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research at Western University.

Thursday, April 21: Hamilton 
6-9 pm at the Art Gallery of Hamilton More information

Stem cells: Where they live and how they work. Dr Jonathan Draper, associate professor in McMaster University’s Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.

Being patient: How stem cells are impacting treatment options. Dr. Sheila Singh, associate professor of surgery and biochemistry at McMaster University.

Hype vs reality. Dr. Mick Bhatia, Scientific Director and Senior Scientist of the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University.

Tuesday, April 26: Toronto
6-8 pm at the Peter Gilgan Centre (SickKids) More information

Stem cells: What they are and what they can do. Dr. Cindi  Morshead, Chair of the Division of Anatomy at the University of Toronto.

Stem cells for the critically iIl: Promise and potential. Dr. John Laffey, Anesthesiologist-in-Chief at St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto.

Introduction to the ethical, legal and social issues surrounding stem cells. Dr. Ubaka Ogbogu, assistant professor in the Faculties of Law and Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Alberta.

Tuesday, May 10: Ottawa
7-8:30 pm at The Ottawa Hospital (Civic Campus) More information

A crash course in stem cell biology. Dr. William (Bill) L. Stanford, senior scientist at the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research at the Ottawa Hospital.

Stem cells in medicine: Today and tomorrow. Dr. Harold Atkins, physician with The Ottawa Hospital’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program.

Ethical issues in stem cell research and application. Dr. Jeff Blackmer, Vice President, Medical Professionalism at the Canadian Medical Association.

 

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01
Mar 2013
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“glow” Magazine Shows How Stem Cells Heal

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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.

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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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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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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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