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19
Nov 2015
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Dr. Michael Rudnicki

Trudeau government urged to invest in stem cells

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A week after his lab unveiled its game-changing research into the root causes of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (read about it here), Dr.

A week after his lab unveiled its game-changing research into the root causes of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (read about it here), Dr. Michael Rudnicki is urging the new Trudeau government to “put its money where its future is: stem cell research.”

In an iPolitics piece published today, Dr. Rudnicki applauded the new government for appointing Dr. Kirsty Duncan as a full-standing minister of Science.

“This is a welcome development in a country that hasn’t been celebrated enough for its contributions to the global scientific research enterprise,” writes Dr. Rudnicki, Scientific Director and CEO of the Stem Cell Network (SCN).  “One area of research that is particularly underfunded in Canada is, ironically, one that can start making a drastic difference in the health of Canadians and people around the world: stem cell research and personalized medicine.”

He recommended the new government consider the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, which he called “the most progressive results-orientated health care document produced in years.”  Crafted by a coalition of scientists, medical doctors, health charity executives, industry experts, business leaders and philanthropists, the Strategy is championed by the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

Thursday’s article is the second recent iPolitics piece advocating stronger investment in stem cell research and development. In August, Foundation President & CEO authored a piece titled Small cells, big future: Why we need a national stem cell effort.

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27
Aug 2015
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Dr. Bernard Thébaud

Neonatal expert believes stem cells will revolutionize medicine

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 Dr. Bernard Thébaud believes that stem cells can help the tiniest of babies breathe easier. And now he has a grant to help make that happen.…

 Dr. Bernard Thébaud believes that stem cells can help the tiniest of babies breathe easier. And now he has a grant to help make that happen.

As Ottawa South News reported this month, Dr. Thébaud’s team is among 22 at the Ottawa Hospital awarded more than $28 million through a new grant offered by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the federal government’s health research funding agency. His team received $3.2 million.

“It’s a unique opportunity because instead of classical funding for three to five years for one project, it’s three projects for seven years,” Thébaud told the publication. “It gives you the peace of mind to work and get the job done.”

Dr. Thébaud’s six full-time researchers are working to translate stem-cell research into clinical treatments that can save lives. They have published papers showing that mesenchymal stem cells from umbilical cords could be used to treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia, or BPD, a disease that affects about 10,000 premature babies in North America every year.  These newborns receive oxygen via machines to help them survive. However this also damages their lungs and impedes development.

“We are one of the very few labs in the world that is banking on the therapeutic potential of these stem cells that may likely revolutionize medicine,” he told the publication.

Within 18 months, Dr. Thébaud plans to conduct a pilot study with up to 20 newborns to show that the stem cell therapy is feasible. If the results are positive, he will launch a randomized control trial, leading to the development of a new treatment.

His team is also investigating the use of another type of cord-blood stem cells, endothelial progenitor cells, to stimulate blood vessel growth and overall lung growth.

“It’s not about doing the science for the science’s sake,” he told the Ottawa South News. “It’s about driving the science and medication into the clinic.”

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24
Aug 2015
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3 reasons why we need the Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan

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Why does Canada need a coast-to-coast-to-coast stem cell effort?

Three big reasons, says James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, in today’s edition of iPolitics.

Why does Canada need a coast-to-coast-to-coast stem cell effort?

Three big reasons, says James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, in today’s edition of iPolitics.

“To maintain our position as a global leader in the field that we discovered and pioneered, to help thousands of Canadians and their loved ones who are struggling with life-threatening conditions, and to transform the stem cell sector into a thriving industry built on high-quality jobs that support families across the country, we need a truly national stem cell effort.

Mr. Price makes the point that with the election campaign now fully underway, it’s time for our politicians to commit to supporting the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan, which will see Canada lead the way in delivering up to 10 new therapies to the clinic within 10 years.

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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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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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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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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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07
Apr 2015
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Dr. Molly Shoichet

Dr. Molly Shoichet and the future of regenerative medicine

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A few weeks ago, the University of Toronto’s Dr. Molly Shoichet was named as one of five recipients of the L’Oreal/UNESCO Women in Science Award.…

A few weeks ago, the University of Toronto’s Dr. Molly Shoichet was named as one of five recipients of the L’Oreal/UNESCO Women in Science Award.

Dr. Shoichet, the first Canadian to claim the prize since 2009, was recognized “for the development of new materials to regenerate damaged nerve tissue and for a new method that can deliver drugs directly to the spinal cord and brain.”

Dr. Shoichet, whose work is mainly focused on drug delivery and stem cell transplantation strategies, shares her excitement about stem cells and the field of regenerative medicine in a video interview with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM).

“There is so much on the horizon of regenerative medicine that is exciting,” says Dr. Shoichet. “Our lab is really focused on the central nervous system, because there is really nothing apart from rehabilitation for these traumatic diseases like stroke, spinal cord injury and even blindness.”

You can view the other installments in the Regenerative Medicine Leadership Series here.

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31
Mar 2015
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Liver failure: the promise of stem cells

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As March makes its exit — like a lion in some regions, like a lamb in others — it’s good to remember that it marked “Liver Health Month,”an initiative to raise awareness of liver diseases.…

As March makes its exit — like a lion in some regions, like a lamb in others — it’s good to remember that it marked “Liver Health Month,”an initiative to raise awareness of liver diseases. Each year the  Canadian Liver Foundation, a national not-for-profit organization established in 1969 to support liver research and education, devotes this month to spreading information about liver health to Canadians.

Liver is the largest solid organ and the biggest reservoir of blood in the body, critical for maintaining overall health. It metabolizes nutrients, removes waste products, filters toxic substances and drugs, maintains the levels of blood sugar, fat and hormones and participates in immune responses.

Hepatocytes are the predominant cell type in the liver and they perform most of its functions. However, their short lifespan requires the liver to constantly regenerate itself in order to remain healthy.

It is estimated that one in 10 Canadians, or around 3 million people, have some form of liver disease. There are over 100 different kinds of liver diseases and the most common forms are viral hepatitis, fatty liver disease and liver cancer. Causes range from alcohol consumption, viruses, obesity, genetics, autoimmune diseases, drugs, toxins.

Liver disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be vague or non-existent until the disease has advanced. Although the liver can continue to function despite a great deal of abuse, once it reaches a state of failure the damage is irreversible.

Currently, the only available treatment is transplantation, but the demand for organs is so high that many people with liver failure die before receiving a donation. While there is no stem cell treatment for liver failure as of yet, stem cells could one day represent a reliable option. Many research teams around the globe are working on developing effective stem cell therapies for liver failure.

In 2013, researchers from Yokohama City University in Japan demonstrated they could produce liver buds, or miniature precursors to human livers, by using stem cells taken from bone marrow, blood vessels and skin cells. When the researchers implanted the buds into the brains of mice, they observed that they connected with the mouse’s blood system. After a couple of months the buds looked and acted like liver and produced liver-specific proteins.

The scientists believe the research is promising, but challenging and it will take to translate this work into a way of growing new livers for patients.

“Testing whether liver buds could help sick patients is years away,” said Professor Takanori Takebe, who led the researchin Nature. “Apart from the need for longer-term experiments in animals, it is not yet possible to make liver buds in quantities sufficient for human transplantation.”

In the meantime, you can find more information about stem cells and liver failure in our Toward Treatments section. Click here to read more.

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