Stem Cell scientists from major universities attend a conference of 100-scientists and invited guest

Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation

 

 

For Immediate Release:

Friday, Nov 6, 2009: Stem Cell scientists from major universities attend a conference of 100-scientists and invited guest in Weston, Massachusetts. Discussions will include estimates of time to develop new stem cell based therapies for degenerative diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord diseases, AIDS and heart failure.

At this crucial time, when the federal government is not funding any new human embryonic stem cell grants while federal guidelines are being organized, the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation’s Seventh Annual Activated Egg Symposium (http://www.bedfordresearch.org/symposium) is bringing together an elite group of speakers from Connecticut, Massachusetts and California to share their latest research with other scientists, mostly funded by state stem cell research initiatives.

This year’s keynote, Renee A. Reijo Pera, director of Stanford’s Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education was interviewed last year in the New York Times for her controversial research using embryonic stem cells to create sperm and eggs. She will be joined by internationally known leaders including, Dr. Gary Stein, director of Massachusetts’ new International Stem Cell Registry, Dr. Haifan Lin, director of the Yale Stem Cell Center, Dr. Laura Grabel, Wesleyan University, Dr. Ann Kiessling, director of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation, Dr. Ren-He Xu, director of the University of Connecticut-Wesleyan Stem Cell Core, Dr. Jesse Mager, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and I Glenn Cohen, Harvard Law School’s new Petri Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics. With attendance limited to 100, the event provides a unique environment for investigators from academia, industry and infertility clinics to meet, discuss their most recent science and form new collaborations.

Special guests this year also include, Senator Jack Hart and Representative Daniel E. Bosley, legislators behind Massachusett’s stem cell bill passed in 2005.

Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation is Massachusetts’ only independent, non-profit, – stem cell laboratory, currently located in Somerville, MA.  http://www.bedfordresearch.org.

For further information, contact:  (310-480-1234) or (781-718-7894).

 

 

Leading experts in basic science and clinical care discuss barriers

Shepherd Center

 

 

From Bench to Bedside:

Leading experts in basic science and clinical care discuss barriers to a “cure” for spinal cord injury. 

By Amanda Crowe, MA, mPH

It’s an exciting time for neuroscience, including the hope for new therapies to treat spinal cord injury (SCI). While basic scientists and clinicians are making important advances, they face daunting challenges when it comes to moving promising research from the bench to the bedside.

To identify and address these barriers, leading experts in neuroscience and stem cells recently came together for the one-day workshop at the University of Georgia.

“The concept of this workshop grew out of a need for better communication between stem cells scientists, who dared to use the term ‘cure’ for spinal cord injury, and care providers, who are worried about raising ‘false hopes’ and setting unrealistic goals for people with spinal cord injury,”says Ann Kiessling, Ph.D.,

associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and director of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation, which organized the second annual gathering in cooperation with Shepherd Center. “Both groups clearly have the patient’s best interest at heart, but were not hearing each other’s concerns.”

A key challenge for people with SCI is the concern among clinicians that any direct intervention at the site of the injury could impose further damage and additional loss of function, Dr. Kiessling says. “They are understandably reluctant to expose their patients to the risk of further spinal cord damage for research purposes,” she adds.

There is also a lack of infrastructure within the SCI research community to support multi-center studies, and to define how studies in SCI can be made safe and relevant to human patients. Keith Tansey, M.D., Ph.D., director of spinal cord injury research at Shepherd, spoke to the group about the need to ensure animal studies are more relevant to humans.

“Humans aren’t necessarily just big rats, and we need to better understand how and why animals are recovering from SCI because the mechanisms may not be the same in humans,” Dr. Tansey says. “Studies of animals and humans with incomplete injuries reveal a bias toward spinal plasticity in animals and brain plasticity in humans as the reason for functional recovery, so treatments may need to be different. In complete injuries, spinal circuits in rodents can regain stepping, but humans can’t, so we need to learn how to make human spinal cords function like rats’.”

Dr. Kiessling agrees, adding that animal model research needs to be more carefully aligned with human injuries and the out come goals for human therapies. “If walking is the outcome measure, animal models need to reflect that. But if bladder control is what’s important, a different animal model may be needed,” she says.

Researchers and clinicians must gain a better understanding of how much recovery is due to re-establishment of brainspinal cord connections versus improvements in interpreting and using sensory information in the spinal cord below the level of injury. Dr. Tansey challenged the traditional view of translational research in which discoveries at the cellular level move from the lab to clinical practice, arguing that it should be more of a two-way street. That is, questions that arise in the clinical setting can go back to the lab to find answers. Other attendees said this model could help inspire greater communication and partnership, as well.

A memorable highlight of the workshop was a tour of Shepherd Center, the only specialty rehabilitation center in the country that combines intensive medical care, rehabilitation and a clinical research program under one roof. This visit gave basic scientists a chance to see what their work can do at the human level, well beyond studying cell biology in the lab.

“We could have held this workshop anywhere in the country, but we were impressed by the clear enthusiasm and determination of Shepherd’s leadership, particularly Alana Shepherd, in creating a unique center of excellence in patient care,” Dr. Kiessling says.

Still, experts say the complexity of SCI cannot be overstated, and there is no silver bullet – no single cell, no single surgery, no single nerve-growth factor that will solve the whole riddle. “The more realistic expectation is that a combination of incremental steps is needed to improve recovery and maximize function,” Dr. Tansey says. “There is huge potential with stem cell biology and cell-replacement therapies, but there’s also a long distance between where we are today and where we need to be to find a ‘cure.’”

Collaborations among these leading experts will help forge the path forward. In the meantime, patients and their families should be encouraged by the progress made thus far, experts say. Prevention and early intervention, regeneration therapies at the cellular and extra-cellular levels and aggressive rehabilitation are all contributing to significant neurological recovery after SCI.

Professor I. Glenn Cohen Joins the Symposium Faculty

The Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation is proud to announce that I. Glenn Cohen, JD will join the facutly as this year’s dinner speaker. Cohen is an assistant professor at Harvard Law School, and co-director of the Petri-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics.

Prof. Cohen is currently working on projects relating to reproductive technology and medical tourism, but his past work has included projects on end of life decision-making, FDA regulation, research ethics, and commodification. Prior to joining Harvard faculty, Prof. Cohen served as a clerk to Chief Judge Michael Boudin, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

2009 Activated Egg Symposium Speakers Posted

We are proud to post the 2009 line-up of speakers:

(Please see the full program here)

Dr. Laura Grabel
“From Embryonic Stem Cell to Neuron, with Stops Along the Way”

Dr. Ren He Xu
“A Neglected Role of bFGF in Supporting Culture of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells”

Dr. Haifan Lin
“Stem Cells, Small RNAs, and Self-Renewal of the Germline.”

Dr. Ann Kiessling
“Unique Cell Cycle Control in 8-Cell Human Embryos”

Dr. Jesse Mager
Essential functions of Yin-Yang1 during oogenesis and preimplantation development.”

Gary Stein, PhD
“Transcription Factor Mediated Epigenetic Control of Cell Growth Phenotype”

NIH Stem Cell Research Guidelines – Urgent Response Needed

This is a call for your help to support human embryonic and parthenote stem cell research. The deadline for action is Tuesday May 26.

Here’s a link to the most up to date version of the draft guidelines: 2009 Draft Guidelines on Human Stem Cell Research

A. The Problem:

On March 9, 2009 President Obama charged the National Institutes of Health, the primary funding agency for federally funded biomedical research, to draft a new set of ethical guidelines for embryonic stem cell research by July 2009. The President did not mean for the new guidelines to overturn the Dickey Amendment to the NIH budget which bans federal funding for the derivation of stem cell lines, but to expand the numbers and types of stem cells available for federal funding after they are derived.

The NIH has issued its draft guidelines and asks for public comment no later than Tuesday May 26, 2009. The NIH draft guidelines are a serious set-back to human embryonic stem cell research and continue the ban on parthenote stem cell research. The draft guidelines are so restrictive that many of the stem cell lines eligible for funding under President Bush would no longer be eligible.

Read More

Clock Gene in Stem Cells Shows Evidence of Importance of Circadian Rhythms

MASSACHUSETTS SCIENTISTS MAKE STEM CELL DISCOVERY

Cell Multiplication Controlled by a Surprising set of Genes

(download PDF) (Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics)

Stem cell researcher Dr. Ann Kiessling announced today the discovery of cell characteristics that may explain important differences between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Scientists have for years been frustrated in their efforts to grow the trillions of adult stem cells needed for therapies, which is why embryonic stem cells seem promising–they can multiply endlessly and also develop into any cell in the body.

Kiessling discovered that early human embryo cells express CLOCK, and other circadian genes, that other human cells growing in laboratories did not. This was a surprise. Although scientists have recently become aware that human tissues have a circadian oscillator that cycles every 24 hours, in phase with the master circadian pacemaker in the brain that responds to light and dark, early embryos seemed too small to function like a tissue.

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A conversation with Renee A. Reijo Pera: Using Embryos to Put Fertility First

The New York Times

Egg Research

As director of Stanford’s Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education, Renee A. Reijo Pera, 49, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, works at ground zero of the controversy over human embryonic stem cells. She uses human embryos to create new cells that will eventually be coaxed into becoming eggs and sperm. In other research, she has also identified one of the first genes associated with human infertility. The questions and answers below are edited from a two-hour conversation and a subsequent telephone interview.

By CLAUDIA DREIFUS | Published: December 15, 2008

Read more:

The New York Times, “A conversation with Renee A. Reijo Pera: Using Embryos to Put Fertility First”

Open Letter from the Foundation Director

Should the U.S. government support the creation of new lines of embryonic stem cells?

by Ann A Kiessling, PhD

The answer to that question is not simple. The rancorous US debate about embryonic stem cells bespeaks a healthy society with genuine concern about each and every member, the tiniest and the sickest. Everyone, on both sides of the debate, wants to do what’s right.

But what is “right?”

Should frozen embryos “left-over” in fertility clinics be “sacrificed” to create stem cells to treat heart failure, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, and birth defects?

The answer is not necessarily.

Embryonic stem cells from “left-over” frozen embryos are just one example of pluripotent stem cells (pluripotent: the potential to develop into all body tissues). Embryonic stem cells have been important model systems for research, but they will have the same tissue compatibility problems as other transplanted organs.

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