Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research celebrates 10 years of discovery

May 11, 2017

Bringing stem cell research to patients – that’s the common goal that has united research specialists from a wide range of disciplines under The Ottawa Hospital’s Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research.

Over the past 10 years, the centre has become the hub of the world-renowned group of researchers who make up the hospital’s Regenerative Medicine Program.

“We are entering a new era of medicine,” said Dr. Michael Rudnicki, Director and senior scientist at the Sprott Centre and professor at the University of Ottawa. “More and more we are going to see regenerative medicine using cutting-edge disruptive technologies to treat many devastating diseases that have no current therapy. With the expertise we have built in Ottawa, we are leading the way with significant discoveries and their translation to the clinic.”

The Sprott Centre supports the work of stem cell researchers with facilities that can analyze cells’ proteins and genetic profile. It also has clean rooms used to manufacture cells for early stage clinical trials.

Discoveries from the Sprott Centre have led to several first-in-human clinical trials and the creation of several biotechnology companies. Some of these discoveries include:

• Dr. Michael Rudnicki discovered stem cells in adult muscle. His work has opened the door to developing drugs to help repair muscles in patients with muscular dystrophy.

• Dr. Marjorie Brand showed that blood vessel stem cells grown in the lab can be encouraged to repair blood vessels more quickly after transplantation in a patient if they are treated with drugs that turn genes on and off. She is exploring which molecular pathways to target to further optimize this process.

• Dr. Jeffrey Dilworth identified several key proteins needed to control the conversion of muscle stem cells into mature muscle. He is looking at how this could be used to treat different muscle-wasting diseases.

• Dr. Lynn Megeney demonstrated that scissor-like proteins normally involved in cell death play a key role in converting muscle stem cells into mature muscle. He is exploring how drugs that block the scissor-like function of these proteins can be used to improve muscle regeneration.

• Dr. William Stanford re-programmed connective tissue cells from patients with Progeria, a genetic condition that causes rapid premature aging, into a kind of stem cell that gives rise to any type of cell in the body. His work helps us better understand how our cells change during aging, and how they might be rejuvenated.

To honour the Sprott Centre's 10th anniversary, researchers hosted a symposium that welcomed stem cell experts from around the world.

The Ottawa Hospital’s leadership in stem cell research promises even more discoveries in the decades to come.

Photos: Zhaoyi Chen

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