Bedford Research Foundation 2016 Newsletter

Read about all of the progress and the research that has occurred at the Foundation over the course of the past year, and a retrospective on the past 20! Dr. Kiessling outlines her vision for the upcoming year as well. Thank you for your support.


Bedford Research Foundation is TWENTY

Founded in 1996 to conduct research that cannot be funded by the National Institutes of Health, Bedford Research scientists have achieved ground-breaking milestones!

See our Timeline of Milestones!

 

 Bedford Research Foundation’s work cannot be federally funded because of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment to the budget of the National Institutes of Health, put in place in 1996 and renewed annually. BRF scientists need private donations for research to develop “universal” stem cells for Everybody.
Donate Today!

From the Director

It is finally all coming together…

My career in reproductive biology and AIDS began in 1983, with the goal of understanding the influence of viruses on early embryo development. Wonderful young scientists joined my laboratory for periods of training during the ensuing 33 years, and together we have made many discoveries that bring our laboratory skills to where they are today. We now have the foundation to begin to generate off-the-shelf stem cells for everybody.

Additionally, because we are a nimble institution, we were able to quickly change research direction to take advantage of a new technology, reported in 2013, that allows unprecedented precision in silencing genes. This advance has two immediately practical applications for our “off-the-shelf” stem cell research goals:

(1) It is now feasible to specifically silence the genes responsible for the proteins on cells that cause immune rejection. Just as Type “O” blood can be administered to almost everyone, such a neutralized cell could be transplanted into many individuals without leading to immune rejection. This would be a major step forward in generating “off-the-shelf” stem cells for everybody. Our successful experiments in mouse eggs pave the way to translate the work to stem cells from human eggs. Like blood banks, such a stem cell bank could be available in emergency rooms for acute treatments, such as heart attack, stroke and spinal cord injury.

(2) It is also feasible to replicate the natural mutation in 1% of humans that renders individuals resistant to infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The ability to precisely silence this gene without causing other changes in the cell, in the same way it is naturally inactivated in 1% of humans , paves the way to deriving a library of stem cells resistant to HIV infection. IF those cells can be developed into bone marrow stem cells, and IF those bone marrow stem cells will function normally, they could be utilized as a powerful treatment, perhaps a cure, for HIV disease.

To help guide the work, we have meritorious individuals serving as our Ethics Advisory Board, our Human Subjects Committee and our Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee. Their guidance has allowed us to forge ahead into areas of stem cell development that larger institutions have shied away from because the work cannot be funded by our federal government. The “Dickey-Wicker Amendment” to the budget of the National Institutes of Health is renewed annually and prohibits funds to be used for studies of unfertilized human eggs. We have for years believed unfertilized eggs (“parthenotes”) will be a broadly applicable source of human stem cells.

Human egg research MUST be privately funded, progress depends entirely on private donations. No federal dollars can be used to study activated human eggs or parthenote stem cells. BRF is uniquely positioned to push this exciting field forward! Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Ann A Kiessling, PhD
Director, Bedford Research Foundation

Who is Bedford Research Foundation?

Stem Cells for Every Body

Unfertilized eggs can be activated artificially (parthenogenesis) by an electrical jolt or chemical stimulation. Activated eggs (“parthenotes”) undergo early cell divisions similar to fertilized eggs, but cannot give rise to offspring. At the time of activation, a protein responsible for tissue matching can be silenced. “Universal donor” stem cells could then be isolated from such parthenotes. Similar to Type O blood, such “universal” stem cells could be available “off-the-shelf ” in emergency rooms for acute injuries, such as heart attack, stroke and spinal cord injury.

Philanthropy Is The Key To Continued Progress

The average cost of each experiment is $90,000. Because much of our overhead is covered by fee-for-service laboratory tests, 92% of every dollar donated goes directly toward these experiments. This innovative funding model allows Bedford Research scientists greater flexibility to move quickly in promising new research directions.

Continued progress requires meeting our annual funding goal.

Donate Today!

Volunteer of the Year

Deborah WeidmanWe are very grateful for the help from our Volunteer of the Year, Deborah Weidman. A Bedford High School student, she has been instrumental to our circadian rhythms in stem cells research this year. She is planning to use her experience with BRF in her career in biomedical engineering. Thank you Deborah!

Prostate Disease Research Update

Dr. Robert Eyre Patient recruitment into the prostate cancer screening project is ongoing, and Bedford Research Scientists have developed methods for including specimens submitted to the laboratory for other types of testing.  The goal of the project is to develop semen screening tests that improve diagnosis and staging of prostate cancer as well as reflect overall male health. Urologists from around the country have joined the research.

On twenty years of progress: Letter from our director

With the help of generous philanthropists and medical collaborators, Dr. Ann Kiessling founded the Bedford Research Foundation in 1996 to address a research need that could not be federally funded — how to help men infected by HIV through tainted blood transfusions have children without infecting their wives and babies. The first “Special Program for Assisted Reproduction,” or SPAR baby was born in 1998.  Ryan Schlosser, now 16 years old, visited the Bedford Research lab last summer. As of September, 2015, 246 babies SPAR babies have been born with all moms and babies testing negative for HIV.Ann Baby Ryan

In 1999, BRF responded to a new research need that could not be federally funded — the derivation of stem cells from unfertilized human eggs.  Bedford Research scientists spear-headed the world’s first ethics advisory board and medical team charged with the task of developing the “gold standard” for women volunteering to donate their eggs for research.

To be clinically feasible, at least 10% of activated, unfertilized human eggs must successfully develop into stem cells.  When initial experiments failed to reach this goal, BRF scientists collaborated with colleagues in Greece to discover what genes must be activate in unfertilized eggs to reach the 10% efficiency needed.  Our results, published in three landmark reports, have led to the information needed to resume the research.  As described in the cover story, the work will need eggs donated by women for research, a controversial topic being considered by BRF ethicists.

Human egg research must be privately funded.  Due to the National Institutes of Health budget no federal dollars can be used to study activated human eggs, or parthenote stem cells.  Bedford Research is uniquely positioned to push this field forward, and needs to add two additional scientists in 2016 to optimize progress. Progress depends entirely on private donations.

Check out more news in the BRF Fall 2015 Newsletter.

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Meet our new board members!

The Bedford Research Foundation welcomes two new board members to the Board of Trustees:  Larry LaFranchi, Ellen Sheehy and Scott Anderson.

Larry LaFranchi brings more than 30 years of business and entrepreneurial experience. His passion for health care and is a perfect match for the Foundation’s independent research goals, and his expertise in financial planning and consulting will benefit all aspects of research planning.

Ellen Sheehy is an experienced, analytical entrepreneur with broad experience in strategy development and implementation.  She has been a leader in the field of nonprofit healthcare for many years.

Scott Anderson is an experienced computer developer and technical science writer. He co-authored Human Embryonic Stem Cells with Dr. Kiessling.

Check out more news from the BRF Fall 2015 Newsletter.

Meet Dr. Aparajita Chatterjee

Dr. Aparajita Chatterjee Dr Chatterjee, a Bedford resident, joins us from Boston Medical Center where she conducted infectious disease research for six years. A skilled molecular biologist and cell culture expert, she is spearheading the work to identify and characterize successful gene silencing in our mouse model parthenote stem cells. We are fortunate to have her.

Research Update: Induced pluripotent stem cells

pasted-imageThis past year BRF helped sponsor a research fellow, Sebastian Bernabe, in Andulacia, Spain’s new stem cell research center.  Formerly a research fellow with Foundation Trustee Dr. Jose Cibelli at Michigan State University, Dr. Bernabe joined the spinal cord research team developed with Spanish scientists Dr. Cibelli and Dr. Philip Horner.  The goal of the research was to test the safety of another innovative stem cell, “induced pluripotent stem cells,” or IPS cells. These cells are derived from skin biopsies and were used to treat spinal cord injury in a rat model system.

The  transplant was performed Oct 28, 2015 after several years of research. It will take months before results are known.

Innovative Stem Cells for EVERY Body

Bedford Research scientists are launching research to derive new stem cells from unfertilized human eggs.  These cells, termed “parthenote” stem cells, are being developed to fulfill the need for “off the shelf” stem cell treatments, similar to emergency transfusion with blood bank blood.

The past decade of discoveries by BRF scientists provide the ground work for the new research initiative. Parthenote stem cells have the potential to develop into all the types of cells needed for therapies:  neurons, heart muscle, insulin-producing cells, bone marrow and cartilage cells.

New, exciting gene editing technologies have been successfully used by BRF scientists to remove the HIV-receptor (the protein on the cell surface the virus uses to infect the cell) in mouse eggs as a model system.  These recent results pave the way to continue the work in human eggs to create parthenote stem cells resistant to infection by HIV, offering the possibility of a cure  for HIV/AIDS.  The proof of principle of this approach was reported several years ago when an HIV-infected man was cured following a bone marrow transplant with stem cells from a person naturally missing the receptor for HIV.

The same gene editing technology can also be used to decrease stem cell rejection after transplantation, for example, at the site of a spinal cord injury to help prevent permanent paralysis.  Stem cells that could be universally accepted for “off the shelf” treatments of acute spinal cord injury or heart attack are exciting possibilities.

BRF scientists believe that a bank of stem cells will not only be valuable treatments for acute injuries, but also for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and chronic spinal cord injury.  Such stem cell lines are also proving to be valuable models for understanding the development of cancers, such as prostate cancer and leukemia.

Read more in the fall 2015 Newsletter!

Bedford Research Launches New Stem Cell Program

Dr. Joel Lawitts microinjects gene editing enzymes into unfertilized mouse eggs to neutralize a major histocompatibility gene that leads to tissue rejection in unmatched individuals. This is the first step in generating off-the-shelf stem cells for everybody.

“Dr. Kiessling and her staff have shown their determination to tackle some of the most difficult health problems of our time.”
– Representative Ken Gordon

From the Director

It is finally all coming together… My career in reproductive biology and AIDS began in 1983, with the goal of understanding the influence of viruses on early embryo development. Wonderful young scientists joined my laboratory for periods of training during the ensuing 33 years, and together we have made many discoveries that bring our laboratory skills to where they are today. We now have the foundation to begin to generate off-the-shelf stem cells for everybody.

Additionally, because we are a nimble institution, we were able to quickly change research direction to take advantage of a new technology, reported in 2013, that allows unprecedented precision in silencing genes. This advance has two immediately practical applications for our “off-the-shelf” stem cell research goals:

(1) It is now feasible to specifically silence the genes responsible for the proteins on cells that cause immune rejection. Just as Type “O” blood can be administered to almost everyone, such a neutralized cell could be transplanted into many individuals without leading to immune rejection. This would be a major step forward in generating “off-the-shelf” stem cells for everybody. Our successful experiments in mouse eggs pave the way to translate the work to stem cells from human eggs. Like blood banks, such a stem cell bank could be available in emergency rooms for acute treatments, such as heart attack, stroke and spinal cord injury.

(2) It is also feasible to replicate the natural mutation in 1% of humans that renders individuals resistant to infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The ability to precisely silence this gene without causing other changes in the cell, in the same way it is naturally inactivated in 1% of humans, paves the way to deriving a library of stem cells resistant to HIV infection. IF those cells can be developed into bone marrow stem cells, and IF those bone marrow stem cells will function normally, they could be utilized as a powerful treatment, perhaps a cure, for HIV disease.

To help guide the work, we have meritorious individuals serving as our Ethics Advisory Board, our Human Subjects Committee and our Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee. Their guidance has allowed us to forge ahead into areas of stem cell development that larger institutions have shied away from because the work cannot be funded by our federal government. The “Dickey-Wicker Amendment” to the budget of the National Institutes of Health is renewed annually and prohibits funds to be used for studies of unfertilized human eggs. We have for years believed unfertilized eggs (“parthenotes”) will be a broadly applicable source of human stem cells.

Human egg research MUST be privately funded, progress depends entirely on private donations. No federal dollars can be used to study activated human eggs or parthenote stem cells. BRF is uniquely positioned to push this exciting field forward! Thank you for your continued support.

Ann A Kiessling, PhD
Director, Bedford Research Foundation