Game-changers in the fight against disease: a report from the World Stem Cell Summit

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With a growing array of possibilities, stem cell treatments for diseases and other medical conditions hold the potential for a new era in human health.
That upbeat message – including a report on Huntington’s disease research – dominated the 2013 World Stem Summit, held in my home city of San Diego last December 4-6. I attended the sixth annual summit as an advocate for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA).
“Over the next 20 years we need the brightest young minds using all the platforms of technology to drive creativity for solutions to defeat the problems of disease using stem cells,” said Alan Trounson, Ph.D., the outgoing president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM), during his keynote address. “If we do that, I’m sure we’re going to be successful.” CIRM, a state-run research funding agency, is spending a voter-approved $3 billion by 2017 to explore stem-cell treatments for various diseases.
“All of us nationally and internationally involved in stem cell research firmly believe that some of these things will work out,” Jonathan Thomas, Ph.D., J.D., the chair of the CIRM oversight board, said at a CIRM public forum. “The great thing about this field is everything’s a game changer. So whatever any of these terrific scientists are able to get through to fruition will literally change the world when it comes to that particular disease or condition. Therein lies the promise of stem cell research.”
You can watch the Trounson and Thomas speeches, as well as other presentations, in my stem cell summit album by clicking here.
‘Cell sheets’ for eyes and hearts
From AIDS to cancer to urinary incontinence, researchers presented exciting advances in stem cell research and the efforts to improve people’s health.
In one of the most striking presentations, Teruo Okano, Ph.D., of Tokyo Women’s Medical University, demonstrated his “cell harvesting” technique to create “cell sheets” of particular kinds of tissue. He has transplanted these sheets onto diseased eyes, cancerous esophageal tissue, and damaged heart muscle.
The small number of patients receiving these experimental treatments has shown dramatic improvement.
Dr. Okano’s team is seeking to employ cell sheets in the treatment of conditions affecting the gums, lungs, liver, pancreas, cartilage, and the middle ear. They are currently seeking to develop a cell sheet-based tissue and organ factory to automate and standardize cell sheet production, aiming to minimize human error and expand the availability of these treatments.
You can watch Dr. Okano’s presentation in the video below..
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