CANADIAN SCIENTIST LEADS SEARCH FOR STEM CELL THERAPY TO FIGHT CANCER
There's no such thing in medicine as a "magic bullet" miraculously curing a huge variety of ailments. But stem cells could come close. That's why a new discovery by a Canadian-led team of international researchers holds such promise.
Headed by Dr. Andras Nagy at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, these scientists mapped the complicated process by which stem cells evolve and, along the way,discovered a new type of stem cell that may be better suited for therapeutic use. It's a breakthrough that advances a vital branch of medicine.
Unlike most of the body's cells, which perform a fixed function, stem cells have the remarkable property of being able to morph into a variety of roles. That means stem cells, engineered to build fresh organs, could potentially save lives; damaged brain tissue might be regenerated; blindness and spinal cord injuries could be reversed. Otherpossible applications include new treatments for burns, diabetes and arthritis.
In short, learning to effectively use these cells could make a difference in millions of people's lives. And Nagy's team of 50 scientists, from Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea and Australia, has taken a big step toward that goal.
Embryonic tissue is one source of stem cells. (We all grew from minuscule clusters of these cells, multiplying and specializing to form the architecture of our body.) But it's also possible for lab workers to "reprogram" adult cells, especially from skin, and transform them into stem cells. How, exactly, that process worked was a mystery until Nagy and his team charted this change, step-by-step, on a molecular level.
This elevated the world's understanding of such cells. And it led scientists to a new type of stem cell — one they dubbed the F-class iPS cell. It appears to grow faster and is easier to work with than other stem cells making it a strong candidate for use in future studies. The team's findings were published earlier this week in the journals Nature and Nature Communications.
These discoveries stand in bold testament to Canada's ability to attract world-class researchers. (Nagy is originally from Hungary.) And such breakthroughs shine a well-deserved spotlight on some of the brilliant work undertaken by scientists across this country, particularly in Toronto.
Humanity will ultimately benefit. And, in that, all Canadians have good reason to be proud.