April 29, 2016 by Lauren Flynn
Joints that can be reconstructed. New tissues or entire organs to replace those damaged in injury or disease. A transplant of healthy beta cells so a diabetic never needs an insulin injection again.
It sounds a bit like science fiction, but these are among the problems Western’s stem cell researchers are working on and may be a reality in the very near future. The Western stem cell community is growing and currently 17 Western labs and their trainees are members of the Ontario Institute of Regenerative Medicine (OIRM). These members are engaged in a wide range of research activities, from understanding the earliest steps in embryonic development, to harnessing the power of adult stem cells to direct tissue repair or replacement.
Dr. David Hess has more than a professional interest in stem cells.
“As a teen,” he said, “I underwent bone marrow transplantation to treat severe aplastic anemia, a disease where stem cells within the bone marrow fail to produce red blood cells that carry oxygen to our tissues, leukocytes that fight infection, and platelets involved in blood coagulation.”
So, why stem cells?
Well, for one, stem cells are rather captivating entities. They are captivating in their ability to create perfect replicas of themselves and also create more specific cells the body needs for survival every day. Roughly two million red blood cells are produced every second. The lining of your intestine, probably the most hostile environment in your body, is completely regenerated by stem cells every three days. However, stem cells have also been subject to more than their fair share of controversy in the form of ethical debate and, more recently, hype as the ‘magic bullet’ to cure all ails.
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