Michael Rudnicki

As an outspoken advocate for stem cell research, Michael has propelled stem cell science forward both in and out of the lab. His work focuses on the use of stem cells in repairing skeletal muscle, lending huge potential to better treat diseases such as muscular dystrophy. Michael is Scientific Director of the Stem Cell Network, Director of the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research and Senior Scientist and Director of Molecular Medicine at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Beating Muscular Dystrophy

A cure for muscular dystrophy is possible. And it begins with understanding the role of stem cells in muscle regeneration. This has been a major focus of the work of Michael Rudnicki who first isolated a type of adult stem cell in muscle tissue that gives rise to make new muscle cells. From there, Michael went on to discover a natural protein that stimulates these stem cells — kickstarts them, if you will. It was like finding a trigger that could reverse the disease.

The most common and most severe form of the disorder, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, is found almost exclusively in boys. Over time, the voluntary muscles that control body movement waste away. They get progressively weaker. By the time these boys are 12 or 13, they’re confined to a wheelchair.

In time, new drug therapies will be used to stimulate stem cells using the gene discovered by Michael. At the same time, Michael and his lab continue to investigate possibilities for directly transplanting stem cells in order to regenerate muscle tissue to rebuild damaged muscles, and to ultimately restore movement.