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March 12, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Imagine a world where malfunctioning organs are replaced by new ones made from your own tissues, where infected wounds are cured with a signal from your smartphone, where doctors find the perfect medicine for whatever ails you simply by studying your stem cells.
It’s a world that’s inching closer to reality because of the work of some of the nation’s top scientists, many of whom will gather March 13-15 at The Ohio State University for the 7th Annual Translational to Clinical (T2C) Regenerative Medicine Conference to discuss their recent successes and challenges in coaxing the body to heal itself in extraordinary ways.
“Regenerative medicine will change the way you and I experience sickness, health and healthcare,” said Chandan Sen, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell Based Therapies at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “Because the field is so new, we as researchers are also changing the way we work to be synergistic – not competitive, so patients are able to access the benefits more quickly.”
And the benefits are desperately needed, says keynote speaker Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
“From chronic diseases such as kidney failure that costs billions of dollars each year to the medical needs of our aging population and the significant injuries sustained by military troops in Afghanistan, developing new treatment paradigms is essential,” said Atala, who was selected to lead the $75 million Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM), a consortium of 30 academic and industry partners in applying regenerative medicine techniques to battlefield injuries.
“In theory, every tissue in the body has the ability to regenerate and heal itself. It’s good to come to this meeting and exchange ideas that will enable us to harness that remarkable ability.”
Other speakers include Elaine Fuchs, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor at Rockefeller University in New York, who has advanced multiple areas of stem cell research through her work in skin cells and genetics; and Dr. Michael Longaker, director of the Hagey Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University. Longaker is considered one of the nation’s experts in using a combination of stem cell- and bioengineering-based technologies for craniofacial reconstruction.
Several Ohio State College of Medicine and Wexner Medical Center clinician-scientists are also sharing research updates during pre-conference lectures and the meeting:
Turning skin cells into a rapid drug screening tool for motor neuron disease. Brian Kaspar, who is also with The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, will share how reprogramming skin cells from Lou Gehrig’s disease patients into astrocytes is leading to a better understanding of the debilitating disorder – and a way to screen thousands of new drug candidates within days.
3D printing of musculoskeletal implants – Dr. David Dean will discuss new approaches to reconstructive surgery using 3D printers to build customized implants that can improve healing, function and appearance. Dean’s lab is part of the AFIRM program led by Atala, and is helping the consortium advance 3D hard-tissue printing methods.
Preventing amputations in diabetic patients – Dr. Rajmony Pannu will share minimally invasive procedures for imaging blocked veins and restoring blood flow to feet. “If blood flow isn’t good, even the most advanced skin grafting or healing techniques will fail,” Pannu said.
New device offers safer, simpler way to create stem cells - within living tissue - Daniel Gallego-Perez and Subhadip Ghatak will share results from animal studies showing how a new device using plasmids and millisecond bursts of electricity reprograms skin cells into pluripotent stem cells – inside living skin. The technique bypasses the risk of using potentially cancer-causing viral vectors and cultures stem cell growth in the presence of immune cells – a living laboratory that could ultimately reduce the risk of transplant rejection.
Saving tiny hearts through tissue engineering. – Dr. Christopher Breuer, also with The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, will review critical insights about how the body reintegrates tissue grafts, gleaned from over two decades of cardiovascular tissue engineering experience. Breuer is currently leading the only FDA-approved investigational study looking at the efficacy and outcomes of tissue-engineered veins implanted into children with fatal heart defects.
“The real advancements come when you can get a lab discovery to a patient in need, and then learn from that patient about how to make the advancement even better. That kind of ‘bench to bedside’ cycle is only possible when scientists collaborate,” Breuer said. “The regenerative medicine partnership between Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital is extraordinary, and because of that, I think it will yield some pretty breathtaking innovations in the next decade.”
Sen, who is the associate dean of translational and applied research at Ohio State’s College of Medicine and director of innovation for Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, agrees, noting that the state of Ohio is particularly well set up to become an epicenter of regenerative medicine knowledge and technology development.
“In this state alone, you have Case Western University, University of Cincinnati, Cleveland Clinic, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital all working to answer different regenerative medicine challenges, yet sharing information as we go. We’re truly living – and delivering on – the promise of translational medicine,” Sen said.
For the first time in the meeting’s seven-year history, immediately following the final day of presentations, there will be a “Science and Industry” summit at which researchers and physicians can explore the latest industry innovations from the world’s top developers of regenerative medicine and wound care technology.
Presentation highlights will be posted via Twitter throughout the three-day meeting, with the hasthtag #T2C2014. More information about the meeting, including registration details, can be found at http://regenerativemedicineconference.osu.edu/.
The conference has been designated an educational activity for a maximum of 12.5 AMA PRA Category 1 credits. The meeting is sponsored by Healogics Inc. and the Wound Health Society.