Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Q&A: The future of stem cell research

Already in clinical use through therapies such as bone-marrow transplants and cartilage repair, regenerative medicine has only started to realize its potential. Although scientists may eventually use stem cells and biomaterials to cure everything from heart disease to neurodegenerative illnesses, developing and commercializing these technologies will take time.

“What we all hope is that there will be new curative treatments for debilitating diseases,” says Peter Zandstra, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering and a Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering. “It’s not clear right now if our approaches will be successful, but I think there’s a lot of hope and promise.”

Among other regenerative medicine projects, U of T’s Dr. Zandstra is utilizing new technologies, such as tissue engineering. “We generate cells such as cardiac cells [and] we’re interested in formulating these cells into micro-tissues that mimic adult heart tissue,” he says. “Then we can use those for drug screening.”

Dr. Zandstra, who works closely with Toronto’s McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, stresses the importance of collaboration with fellow researchers here and abroad. He also wants to see innovative technology reach the marketplace. In addition to his research duties, Dr. Zandstra is chief scientific officer of the new Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM).

The Toronto-based centre takes early-stage technologies from Ontario institutions and adds value to help commercialize them, he explains. “One of the problems that we face in regenerative medicine – and there are many – is that numerous technologies that come out are too early for real commercialization, and we need this extra step of turning them into products.”

So what's the future for stem cell medicine, and how long will it take these new therapies to move from the lab to the market? Join us for a live discussion with Dr. Zandstra at noon E.ST. this Thursday. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments section.


Source and More:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/shaping-the-future/qa-the-future-of-stem-cell-research/article2253933/

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