Along with 3500 other scientists, I spent the last week of June at the annual ISSCR (International Society for Stem Cell Research) conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Among other things, the ISSCR has been at the forefront of advocating for patient education when it comes to stem cell therapies. I highly recommend that anyone considering a stem cell treatment, especially those occurring outside of the US, read the ISSCR website and the guides provided there.
The meeting was very exciting, filled with dozens of talks and hundreds of posters describing the most recent advances in stem cell research. Here are some of my highlights:
- Masayo Takahashi (RIKEN, Japan), the lead scientist on the iPSC-derived RPE clinical trial for macular degeneration described the years of work leading up to the trial and the current results of the first patient (no problems reported and an overall stabilization of vision). However, days after the meeting, the trial was put on hold when cells that were planned to be injected into a second patient were found to bear mutations that could lead to cancer.
- Hans Clevers (Hubrecht Institute, Netherlands) described their use of gut cancer organoids to screen for drugs that would specifically work for individual patients, based on the specific mutation that led to their cancer. They are expanding their work to also screen for cystic fibrosis drugs. This is a fine example of the immediate impact that personalized medicine can have on treatment.
- Organoids – there were many talks from various researchers on the use of organoids to understand normal organ development and disease processes, including an update on brain organoids
- Genome Editing – I have been remiss on blogging about this topic–stay tuned, as it has and will continue to be a game-changer in regenerative medicine
I’m optimistic that there will continue to be exciting advances in regenerative medicine in the second half of 2015, but researchers need to careful to ensure that everything is done to ensure that potential treatments undergo rigorous safety checks before moving into human clinical trials.