Research Highlights | Regenerative Medicine

The annual Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Symposium this year was packed with great talks from the scientists and great commercialization advice. Here I summarized the highlights from this event, with the goal to educate and engage with the public, enhance the communication and share the stories of cutting-edge research and technology. Enjoy!

The schematic view of the research highlights from various areas.

From the research side:

The central nervous system:

1. Astrocyte reprogramming to treat stroke-induced brain cell damage

Dr. Maryam Faiz demonstrated that reprogrammed neurons persisted in the right location of the brain and partially restored the motor functions of the stroked mice

2. Organ-on-a-chip: cerebral organoid

Dr. Liliana Attisano’s lab developed the method to culture cerebral organoid, which provides an alternative way to screen drugs targeting the CNS

 The eye:

1. Cell replacement therapy of glaucoma

Dr. Pierre Mattar’s lab is working on the retinal organoid to treat glaucoma, which is primarily caused by damaged retinal ganglion cells.

2. Retinal pigment epithelial/RPE patches to treat age-related macular degeneration/AMD

Dr. Pete Coffey’s lab developed a method to generate a small retinal pigment epithelial patch on top of an artificial scaffold. These patches then can be inserted into the patient’s eyes between choroid and retina layer under a 45 min surgery. This method remarkably reduced the operation time and improved patient’s vision and quality of life.

The heart, muscle and joint:

1. Treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy with muscle stem cells

Dr. Michael Rudnicki’s team is developing a drug to restore the imbalanced asymmetrical division of muscle stem cells. Dr. Keir Menzies’s lab is boosting the NAD energy signals in the mitochondria of the muscle stem cells. Dr. Penny Gilbert’s lab is engineering a 3D culture of the muscle stem cells to understand their development.

2. Organ-on-a-chip: cardiovascular 3D culture

Dr. Sara Vasconcelos is interested in using in vitro organoid to study the cardiovascular system.

3. A clinical trial of treating osteoarthritis with autologous mesenchymal stem cells

Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan led the first trial of its kind in Canada and found that the injected mesenchymal stem cells could not rescue cartilage damage in the joint. The potential mechanism of action of mesenchymal stem cells was to reduce synovitis and dampen the local inflammation.

The mucosa:

1. Improving wound healing via integra technology

Dr. Marc Jeschke’s team uses burn-derived stem cells as a source of autologous mesenchymal stem cells to treat severe burns. (Interesting trivia: Brazilians use tilapia skins to treat burns)

2. Organ-on-a-chip: a 3D culture of the lungs

Dr. Amy Wong is interested in using lung organoids to study cystic fibrosis.

3. The circadian clock regulates intestinal tumorigenesis

Dr. Phillip Karpowicz reported that intestinal polyps from mice developed spontaneous colorectal cancer express less circadian rhythm genes compared to normal intestinal tissues. Moreover, intestinal epithelial cells knocked out of circadian regulation genes are more prone to tumorigenesis. (Interesting trivia: Shift workers and frequent travelers are more prone to develop cancers)

The immune system:

1. Producing of T cells from stem cells for immune-regeneration

Dr. Juan Carlos Zuniga-Pflucker reported that co-injection of pro-T cells with hematopoietic stem cells could dramatically improve the quality of T cell generation and thymic reconstitution.

From the commercialization side:

Some advice:

1. Establishing a patent strategy

– IP in regenerative medicine is complicated quoted from James Rowland

2. Good clinical data do not guarantee that the drug can make it to the market

– Reimbursement issues quoted from Gail Naughton (interesting trivia: Dendreon’s bankrupt)

– Proof of cost-benefit quoted from Gail Naughton

– Emphasis on business development (the main reason for the sales of Canadian companies are far behind the American ones) quoted from Gail Garland

 – Modifying the product/pricing along the way quoted from Mitchel Sivilotti

3. Be stupid and stubborn and always keep networking quoted from Michael Rudnicki

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