You have been hearing about the potential of stem cells to treat diseases and disorders for a few years now. So it was entirely appropriate that one of the opening sessions at the World Stem Cell Summit in San Diego focused on ways that stem cells are transforming medicine right now. This was very much a case of “we don’t have to wait for the future, because the future is already here.”
The agenda ranged from stem cell basics to advanced research.
Here is a list of some of the topics covered:
- STEM CELL SCIENCE- UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS
- PROGRESS TOWARD STEM CELL-BASED THERAPIES IN CALIFORNIA
- HOW STEM CELLS ARE TRANSFORMING MEDICINE
- THE GLOBAL REGULATION OF STEM CELL THERAPIES
- STEM CELLS FOR TREATMENT OF HEART DISEASE
- INTERSECTION OF STEM CELLS AND GENE THERAPY – CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS
- SYNTHETIC MATERIALS, BIOMATERIALS AND SCAFFOLDS
- THE PROMISE OF DIRECT REPROGRAMMING OF STEM CELLS
- STEM CELLS AND THE COMING STANDARDS REVOLUTION IN THE LIFE SCIENCES
- HOW PATIENT ADVOCACY ADVANCES STEM CELL RESEARCH AND REGENERATIVE MEDICINE
- WHAT CAN FAT (ADIPOSE) STEM CELLS REALLY DO?
- THE ROLE OF THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY IN REGENERATIVE MEDICINE
- STEM CELL OPEN INNOVATION IN JAPAN: INDUSTRY-ACADEMIA COLLABORATION ON STEM CELL LARGE-SCALE PRODUCTION AND QUALITY CONTROL
- NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE TO EMPOWER PATIENTS
- GROWING WHOLE ORGANS –CHANGING MEDICINE FOREVER
- DIABETES PROGRESS
- STEM CELLS FOR DISEASE MODELING
- FROM CELLS TO CELL THERAPIES IN THE UK: ACCELERATING TRANSLATION AND A ROUTE TO THE EUROPEAN AND GLOBAL MARKETS
- SYSTEMS APPROACHES TO DISEASE AND STEM CELLS
- VISION FOR THE STATE-OF-THE ART BIOBANK
- TAKING STEM CELL BASED THERAPIES TO THE CLINIC
- STEM CELLS AND PARKINSON'S DISEASE
- THE EMERGING INNOVATIVE POWERHOUSE OF BRAZIL - STEM CELL RESEARCH AIMED AT CURES
The World Stem Cell Summit honored five champions of stem cell research Thursday evening. They are: Philanthropists Denny Sanford and Malin Burnham; stem cell researcher/blogger/patient advocate Paul Knoepfler; medical journal publisher Mary Ann Liebert, and patient advocate Roman Reed.
A memorable speech advocating more stem cell research came from Roman Reed.
A spinal cord injury from a college football accident left Reed mostly paralyzed. He's recovered use of his arms, but cannot walk. Reed and his father, Don, were among the foremost proponents of Prop. 71, the initiative that set aside $3 billion in bond money to fund stem cell research and disease treatments in California.
Roman Reed describes how he fought back after being partly paralyzed.
You can read more about Roman Reed on this blog and view other videos covering topics about raising funds for stem cell research for spinal cord injuries, rats cured of spinal cord injuries with stem cells raising the question - how long for people?
Highlights from some of the speakers:
Paul Simmons, Ph.D., of the biotech company Mesoblast talked about his company’s use of mesenchymal precursor cells (MPCs) – the kind of stem cell found in bone marrow and the dental pulp of teeth – to help treat people who have heart failure or suffered a heart attack, as well as to help regenerate bone to repair damage to the spine and to treat immunological disorders.
Though located in a number of places in the body, mesenchymal stem cells can be found in especially high concentrations in the healthy dental pulp of teeth.
Mesenchymal stem cells are one of the most well-understood, widely researched and promising types of stem cell. More on Mesenchymal stem cells...
Professor Teruo Okano, Ph.D., of Tokyo Women’s Medical University talked about the use of tissue engineering to create entire sheets of stem cells that can then be transplanted into the body to repair damage. He showed how those sheets of cells can be placed on an eye to help repair a damaged cornea. The sheets didn’t need any stitches to hold them in place, instead after just ten minutes they had already adhered to the surface of the eye and begun to work. This technique has already been used in helping 30 patients in Japan and 25 in France.
Okano also showed how the same approach has been used to help patients with heart failure. One patient in Japan was on a heart assist device because his own heart was too weak to keep him alive. After receiving a transplant of heart stem cells in a sheet onto the surface of his heart the man began to recover. Within 7 weeks he was able to come off the heart assist device and within a few more weeks he was able to go home. Six years later he is still thriving.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. People of all ages and backgrounds can be affected. More on stem cells from teeth to treat heart attacks...
U.C. Davis researcher Jan Nolta, Ph.D., also talked about mesenchymal stem cells but said her team is genetically engineering them so they can be used to treat many different problems ranging from heart and stroke to arthritis and cartilage and autoimmune disorders such as lupus. Nolta says the MSCs don’t seem to “become” the damaged cells but instead work by having an impact on other cells in the body, stimulating them to help repair the damage.
She also talked about the growing use of MSCs in dental work, helping repair damaged bone in the mouth or even restore gum tissue. Nolta has received a number of grants from CIRM for her work in developing new therapies for Huntington’s disease and critical limb ischemia.
The speakers didn’t gloss over the fact that there are many obstacles still facing the industry. Simmons highlighted some of the problems in being able to mass produce stem cells in the quantity and quality that will be needed if these kinds of treatments are going to be not just widely available but also affordable.
Okano said his team is already working on producing a cell sheet tissue factory, a fully automated system for manufacturing the sheets of stem cells needed in his work.
The conclusion was that even the most advanced researchers and companies acknowledge that there is a lot of work still ahead but that progress is being made and therapies are already in the clinics for patients, and many more are on the way.