Norman Iscove

Having studied closely with both Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch, Norman is considered a stem cell pioneer in his own right. His contributions to stem cell research have advanced the field considerably, particularly in understanding stem cell renewal in blood marrow and the potential to treat cancer. Norman is Senior Scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto.

Renewing Organs

Organ failure is at the root of a vast number of human health problems. People develop type 1 diabetes when their pancreas stops producing insulin. Heart attacks develop when the heart fails to perform properly. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS develop when the central nervous system breaks down.

But what if we could recreate new cells that could actually regenerate organs? What if we could renew our own organs with our own cells — and become healthy again? Stem cell therapies offer exactly that potential.

Norman Iscove has devoted his career to understanding the behaviour of stem cells, in all their beauty and complexity, in order to harness that potential. Recent work has focused on understanding what mechanisms control self-renewal of stem cells and what controls differentiation — or building new kinds of cells.

For the past decade, stem cell science has had remarkable laboratory success in growing a great variety of cells. The global community of stem cell researchers is fortunate to have a talented pool of scientists focusing on different areas — and different cells — simultaneously. As a result, we now know that pancreatic cells can be recreated in cultures, as can heart cells, brain cells, blood cells, liver cells and much more. This list is infinite.

The ultimate dream is that we would no longer need to depend on organ transplants and an ever-increasing shortage of donor organs where supply never meets demand. Instead, we could, really and truly, heal ourselves.