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Notre Dame establishes professorships in adult stem cell research

Public release date: 22-Jun-2012 [ | E-mail | Share ]

Contact: William Gilroy gilroy.6@nd.edu 574-631-4127 University of Notre Dame

Alumnus Michael Gallagher and his wife, Elizabeth, have made a $5 million gift to establish the Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher Family Professorships in Adult Stem Cell Research at the University of Notre Dame.

Their gift, which will fund three new endowed professorships in adult and all forms of non-embryonic stem cell research, will strengthen Notre Dame's leadership in the field of stem cell research and enhance the University's effective dialogue between the biomedical research community and the Catholic Church on matters related to the use and application of stem cells and regenerative medicine.

"As a Catholic university, Notre Dame carries a mantle of responsibility to use our scholarship and resources to help alleviate human suffering, and, in this area of research in particular, to do so with deep respect for the sanctity of all human life," said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University's president. "These new professorships will enable us to effectively build upon an already strong foundation in this critically important field. We are tremendously grateful to the Gallaghers for making this possible with their transformative gift."

Despite years of research, there are no known cures for a large number of degenerative diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration and spinal cord injuries. Stem cell research has the potential to contribute to the discovery of new and successful treatments for these and other diseases because it holds the unique promise of regenerating damaged cells and tissues, fully restoring tissues and organs to their normal function.

Although this vital area of research could accelerate the ability to alleviate much human suffering, it has generated extensive ethical debate with the use of embryonic versus non-embryonic stem cells. The Catholic Church affirms the dignity of all human life at every stage and vigorously opposes the destruction of human embryos for the harvesting of stem cells. At the same time, the Church strongly endorses the use of adult and non-embryonic stem cell research as a potential therapy for individuals suffering from these debilitating diseases. Research has demonstrated that adult stem cells, including all forms of non-embryonic stem cells, such as induced pluripotent stem cells and umbilical cord stem cells, can be harvested and programmed to achieve pluripotency the same characteristic that enables embryonic stem cells to differentiate into any type of cell.

An urgent need exists to increase the number of faculty experts performing adult stem cell research at Notre Dame. Doing so will expand upon the strong foundation the College of Science holds in these areas and will help create an environment for excellence in which faculty and students can learn, grow, collaborate and ultimately affect human health.

"We are overwhelmed with gratitude at the generous gift from Mike and Liz Gallagher," said Gregory P. Crawford, dean of the College of Science. "The impact of this gift is truly beyond measure. It will play a crucial role in attracting three more of the best faculty in the field of adult stem cell research to Notre Dame. Furthermore, this gift will equip our existing talented group of adult stem cell researchers at Notre Dame to take the next great leap toward ultimately forming a premier center in adult stem cell research."

Michael Gallagher is a 1991 graduate of Notre Dame, and his wife, Elizabeth, is a 1992 graduate of Saint Mary's College. They have two sons, Brock and Jack, and currently live near Denver.

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Researchers urge EU not to cut stem cell funding

* European Parliament debating funding for 2014 to 2020

* Scientists fear cuts to embryonic stem cell research

* Experts say cutting funds would hold back entire field

LONDON, June 15 (Reuters) - Leading scientists, biomedical research bodies and patient groups urged the European Parliament on Friday to maintain vital European Union funding for studies using embryonic stem cells.

Hailing the field as "one of the most exciting and promising" in modern biomedical research, the group said they feared research grants currently under review may be under threat from pro-life European parliamentarians who say public funds should not be spent on embryonic stem cell work.

"(EU) Commission funding must be available to continue to support scientists investigating all types of stem cells - including human embryonic stem cells - with potential to make advances in regenerative medicine," they wrote in an open letter released by the Wellcome Trust, a charitable health foundation.

The European Parliament is currently debating the future outline of Horizon (Euronext: HOR.NX - news) 2020, the EU's programme for research and innovation which will run from 2014 to 2020.

Draft rules provide for stem cell research funding, including embryonic stem cells but some member states have been lobbying for embryonic stem cell research to be excluded.

Many scientists believe stem cell research has the potential to lead to the development of treatments for a whole host of diseases including incurable neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson's, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as type 1 diabetes, various serious heart conditions, liver damage, spinal cord damage and blindness.

Europe (Chicago Options: ^REURUSD - news) , and particularly Britain, is considered a world leader in stem cell research. The experts, from charities, funding bodies and patient groups, said if Europe is to hold on to this competitive edge, it is crucial to maintain funding for all stem cell research.

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Researchers urge EU not to cut stem cell funding

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Medistem Achieves Important ERC Stem Cell Clinical Trial Milestone

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwire -06/04/12)- Medistem Inc. (MEDS) announced today positive safety data from the first 5 patients enrolled in the Non-Revascularizable IschEmic Cardiomyopathy treated with Retrograde COronary Sinus Venous DElivery of Cell TheRapy (RECOVER-ERC) trial. The clinical trial uses the company's "Universal Donor" Endometrial Regenerative Cells (ERC) to treat Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).

According to the study design, after 5 patients enter the trial, they must be observed for a two month time period before additional patients are allowed to enter the study. Patient data was analyzed by the study's independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), which concluded that based on lack of adverse effects, the study be allowed to continue recruitment.

"Medistem is developing a treatment for CHF that uses a 30-minute catheter-based procedure to administer the ERC stem cell into the patients' hearts. The achievement of 2 month patient follow-up with no adverse events is a strong signal for us that our new approach to this terrible condition is feasible," said Thomas Ichim, CEO of Medistem.

The RECOVER-ERC trial will treat a total of 60 patients with end-stage heart failure with three concentrations of ERC stem cells or placebo. The clinical trial is being conducted by Dr. Leo Bockeria, Chairman of the Backulev Centre for Cardiovascular Surgery, in collaboration with Dr. Amit Patel, Director of Clinical Regenerative Medicine at University of Utah.

"As a professional drug developer, I am very optimistic of a stem cell product that can be used as a drug. The ERC stem cell can be stored frozen indefinitely, does not need matching with donors, and can be injected in a simple 30-minute procedure into the heart," said Dr. Sergey Sablin, Vice President of Medistem and co-founder of the multi-billion dollar NASDAQ company Medivation.

Currently patients with end-stage heart failure, such as the ones enrolled in the RECOVER-ERC study, have no option except for heart transplantation, which is limited by side effects and lack of donors. In contrast to other stem cells, ERC can be manufactured inexpensively, do not require tissue matching, and can be administered in a minimally-invasive manner. Animal experiments suggest ERC are more potent than other stem cell sources at restoring heart function. The FDA has approved a clinical trial of ERC in treatment of critical limb ischemia in the USA.

About Medistem Inc. Medistem Inc. is a biotechnology company developing technologies related to adult stem cell extraction, manipulation, and use for treating inflammatory and degenerative diseases. The company's lead product, the endometrial regenerative cell (ERC), is a "universal donor" stem cell being developed for critical limb ischemia and heart failure. A publication describing the support for use of ERC for this condition may be found at http://www.translational-medicine.com/content/pdf/1479-5876-6-45.pdf.

Cautionary Statement This press release does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any of our securities. This press release may contain certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Forward-looking statements are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties, some of which cannot be predicted or quantified. Future events and actual results could differ materially from those set forth in, contemplated by, or underlying the forward-looking information. Factors which may cause actual results to differ from our forward-looking statements are discussed in our Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2007 as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Cell transplantation of lung stem cells has beneficial impact for emphysema

Public release date: 4-Jun-2012 [ | E-mail | Share ]

Contact: David Eve Celltransplantation@gmail.com Cell Transplantation Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair

Tampa, Fla. (June 4, 2012) When autologous (self-donated) lung-derived mensenchymal stem cells (LMSCs) were transplanted endoscopically into 13 adult female sheep modeled with emphysema, post-transplant evaluation showed evidence of tissue regeneration with increased blood perfusion and extra cellular matrix content. Researchers concluded that their approach could represent a practical alternative to conventional stem cell-based therapy for treating emphysema.

The study is published in Cell Transplantation (21:1), now freely available on-line at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cog/ct/.

"Mensenchymal stem cells are considered for transplantation because they are readily available, highly proliferative and display multi-lineage potential," said study corresponding author Dr. Edward P. Ingenito of the Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. "Although MSCs have been isolated from various adult tissues - including fat, liver and lung tissues - cells derived from bone marrow (BM) have therapeutic utility and may be useful in treating advanced lung diseases, such as emphysema."

However, according to the authors, previous transplantation studies, many of which used an intravenous delivery method, have shown that BM-MSCs have been only marginally successful in treating lung diseases. Further, therapeutic responses in those studies have been limited to animal models of inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and acute lung injury.

To try and answer the questions surrounding the utility of BM-MSCs for treating advanced emphysema, a disease characterized by tissue destruction and loss of lung structural integrity, for this study the researchers isolated highly proliferative, mensenchymal cells from adult lung parenchyma (functional tissue) (LMSCs) and used an endoscopic delivery system coupled with a scaffold comprised of natural extracellular matrix components.

"LMSCs display efficient retention in the lung when delivered endobronchially and have regenerative capacity through expression of basement membrane proteins and growth factors," explained Dr. Ingenito.

However, despite the use of autologous cells, only a fraction of the LMSCs delivered to the lungs alveolar compartment appeared to engraft. Cell death likely occurred because of the failure of LMSCs to home to and bind within their niche, perhaps because the niche was modified by inflammation or fibrosis. These cells are attachment-dependent and failure to attach results in cell death."

Their findings did suggest, however, that LMSCs were capable of contributing to lung remodeling leading to documented functional improvement rather than scarring 28 days post transplantation.

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29 Johns Hopkins stem cell researchers awarded funding

Public release date: 30-May-2012 [ | E-mail | Share ]

Contact: Vanessa McMains vmcmain1@jhmi.edu 410-502-9410 Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

This year the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund awarded 29 of 40 grants to Johns Hopkins researchers for the study of stem cell metabolism and regulation, the creation of new cell models for human diseases such as schizophrenia and Rett syndrome, which previously could be studied only in animals, and the development of new potential therapies.

Researchers whose preliminary data promised greater discoveries were awarded Investigator-Initiated grants. Jeff Bulte, Ph.D., professor of radiology, biomedical engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering and a member of the Institute for Cell Engineering, hopes to develop a cell therapy for treatment of type 1 diabetes an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system kills the insulin-producing cells that help regulate blood sugar. By developing cloaked stem and insulin-producing cells that can evade immune system detection, Bulte and his team hope to replace damaged cells and restore insulin levels in patients.

Grants were awarded to:

Several Johns Hopkins investigators were awarded Exploratory grants for researchers either new to the stem cell field or with untested but promising new ideas. Miroslaw Janowski , M.D., Ph.D., a research associate in radiology, plans to develop a stroke treatment by guiding newly introduced brain cells with magnets through blood vessels to the site of injury.

Exploratory grants were awarded to:

Postdoctoral trainees also will receive funding for research projects. A fellow in biomedical engineering, Pinar Huri, Ph.D., will use her award to develop bone grafts with blood vessels inside made from fat tissue-derived stem cells. The grafts would be used in patients with severely damaged bone in need of reconstructive surgery.

Postdoctoral grants were awarded to:

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29 Johns Hopkins stem cell researchers awarded funding

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Stem cells take root in drug development

Stem cells have assumed near-mythical status in the popular imagination as a possible cure for every disease under the sun. But while public attention has focused on their potential in regenerative medicine, stem cells have quietly gained a foothold in drug development a move that may hail a huge but unheralded shake-up of the biological sciences.

I think there are tremendous parallels to the early days of recombinant DNA in this field, says James Thomson, director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison, Wisconsin, and one of the founders of Cellular Dynamics International, also in Madison. I dont think people appreciated what a broad-ranging tool recombinant DNA was in the middle '70s." At the same time, he says, they underestimated the difficulty of using it in treatments.

Now stem cells are in a similar situation, he says, and although therapeutic use is likely to come to fruition eventually, people underappreciate how broadly enabling a research tool it is, he says.

Laboratory-grown stem cells hold much promise for regenerative medicine, but are being increasingly used in drug testing.

MASSIMO BREGA, THE LIGHTHOUSE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Drug companies began dipping a tentative toe into the stem-cell waters about two years ago (see 'Testing time for stem cells'). Now, the pharmaceutical industry is increasingly adopting stem cells for testing the toxicity of drugs and identifying potential new therapies, say those in the field.

Cellular Dynamics sells human heart cells called cardiomyocytes, which are derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Thomson says that essentially all the major pharma companies have bought some. The company also produces brain cells and cells that line blood vessels, and is about to release a line of human liver cells.

Yet Cellular Dynamics is just one of the companies in the field. Three years ago, stem-cell biologist Stephen Minger left his job in UK academia to head GE Healthcares push into stem cells (see 'Top scientist's industry move heralds stem-cell shift'). The medical-technology company, headquartered in Chalfont St. Giles, UK, has been selling human heart cells made from embryonic stem (ES) cells for well over a year, and is due to start selling liver cells soon.

Minger and his team at GE Healthcare assessed the heart cells in a blind trial against a set of unnamed drug compounds to see if the cells would reveal which compounds were toxic. When the compounds were unmasked, Minger says, they found that the cells had been affected by the known toxic compounds. But, crucially, in a number of cases, the cells identified a problem that had only been discovered after the drugs had reached the market and after they had been approved by agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

These are compounds which went all the way through animal testing, then went through phase I, II, III and then were licensed in many cases by the FDA, says Minger.

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