Clinician scientist armed with stems cells gives MS patients their lives back

In 2001, Dr. Harold Atkins, an OIRM scientist, enrolled the first patients in a clinical trial for an aggressive, untested treatment for multiple sclerosis. A short time later, patient number five failed — by recovering far beyond what anyone had imagined. Now, Dr. Atkins is being recognized for his pioneering efforts with the Till & McCulloch Award.Dr. Harold Atkins, the recipient of the 2017 Till & McCulloch Award.As clinical trials go, early phases are not about cures,…

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A piggyback towards stem cell clinical trials for osteoporosis

Stock imageStem cell researcher Dr. William Stanford knows broken bones. He’s especially familiar with osteoporosis, a disease characterized by bone fragility. In his Ottawa home, Stanford works until the wee hours writing papers and grants that keep his research moving forward. His motivation is simple: finding a cure for osteoporosis.“I have gotten letters from patients who have the most debilitating forms of the disease one can imagine. They’ll list off all the fractures they get…

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Package delivery to boost repair of muscular dystrophy muscle

A muscle stem cell is shown with a pink centre and green outline, sitting on the edge of a muscle fibre. (Image courtesy of Dr. Michael Rudnicki)Our knowledge of human anatomy hasn’t changed much in a hundred years. What has changed is our understanding about how our bodies build that anatomy and maintain it throughout life. As our tissues and organs develop and heal, every gene that gets activated, every protein that signals a cell…

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Tissue culture platforms could help researchers better understand and treat Duchenne muscular…

Tissue culture platforms could help researchers better understand and treat Duchenne muscular dystrophyThese human pluripotent stem cell-derived motor neuron clusters are immunostained so that the motor neuron cell bodies are red and the motor neurons neurites are green. (Image courtesy Penney Gilbert lab)Penney Gilbert is harnessing new technology to revisit old questions about muscular dystrophy.Gilbert, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering, has engineered a three-dimensional tissue culture platform…

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The man who is breathing new hope into the lives of fragile preterm babies

Dr. Bernard Thébaud’s research using stem cells as a therapy for chronic lung disease in premature infants is advancing thanks to a new grant from the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine.Dr. Bernard Thébaud. Photo: The Ottawa HospitalExtremely premature babies enter the world with more health challenges than most of us will see in our entire lifetime. Strikingly long, the list of complications includes heart, vision, hearing, gastrointestinal, developmental and respiratory problems, many of which persist throughout…

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Beyond one-ply: Understanding the layers of consent and risk in clinical trials

From the lab to the clinic to the local newspaper, managing expectations around stem cell therapies is everyone’s job.The landmark autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation for aggressive MS trial team from The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Left to right: Dr. Mark Freedman, Dr. Harold Atkins, trial participant Jennifer Molson and MS clinic manager Marjorie Bowman.Traversing the so-called Valley of Death in stem cell research — where potential therapies die before they can be translated into clinical practice — is often considered…

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The value proposition for stem cell therapies

As more regenerative medicine research moves toward clinical trials, it’s a perfect time to be asking not just ‘what can we achieve?’, but also ‘what can we afford?’Crossing the valley of death between regenerative medicine research and clinical approval requires rethinking how we evaluate and fund the clinical trial process. (Stock photo)The promise of regenerative medicine — new treatments and cures for many devastating and costly diseases — will soon be within our grasp. Globally, there are now more than 700…

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A step towards genetically tailored medicine for autism spectrum disorder

Dr. Karun Singh, an investigator at the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University, hopes to lead the way towards a new treatment for Autism Spectrum DisorderBuilding a puzzle without the reference image on the box cover is no easy task. You might find a few pieces that go together by matching colours or connecting fragments of an image, or string together a stretch of the puzzle’s edge, but in either case you won’t…

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Toronto scientists have an affair with the heart

Ventricular muscle cells. Image courtesy of Dr. Michael LaflammeYou may have heard that Paris is the city of love, but you might not know that Toronto specializes in matters of the heart, particularly broken hearts.Dr. Ren Ke Li, an investigator with the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, established his lab at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute in 1993 hoping to find a way to replace the muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, that are lost after a heart…

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