IRVINE, CA--(Marketwire - Oct 1, 2012) - Oct. 3 marks International Stem Cell Awareness Day, a global celebration where leading scientists, researchers and supporters will acknowledge the scientific advances of stem cell research and its ability to potentially treat a variety of diseases and injuries in the 21st century. This dedicated community is committed to unlocking the potential of stem cells and has made significant strides since the discovery of a method to grow human stem cells less than 15 years ago.
"This is a critical and historic time for stem cell research," said Peter Donovan, Ph.D., director, Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, UC Irvine. "We're literally on the brink of developing new treatments for some of the world's most devastating diseases and injuries. The act of simply raising awareness about this research is one of the best things people can do to help accelerate the process. This event is a great opportunity for everyone to help spread the word and build momentum through a timely mass effort."
Scientists at UC Irvine and other research facilities around the globe continue to work diligently to develop therapies to treat life threatening and debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, cancer, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, brain disorders and paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries. These efforts continue to give hope to millions who suffer from these devastating conditions by offering revolutionary treatments and potential cures.
There are several research programs taking place at the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UC Irvine that continue to break down barriers and open doors to new treatments for major diseases and injuries:
Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injuries: Neurobiologist Hans Keirstead, Ph.D., as well as husband and wife scientists Aileen Anderson, Ph.D., and Brian Cummings, Ph.D., are conducting stem cell studies to develop treatments for the more than 1.3 million Americans who suffer from spinal cord injuries. Their advancements have led to the world's first clinical trial of human neural stem cell-based therapy for chronic spinal cord injuries (Anderson/Cummings) and the first FDA approved clinical trials using embryonic stem cells (Keirstead). Their research is significant because no drug or other forms of treatment have been able to restore function for those suffering from paralysis. In addition, Cummings and Anderson are applying their stem research to traumatic brain injury, a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, especially in children and young adults.
Alzheimer's Disease: An estimated 35 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer's disease, five million of whom live in the U.S. Frank LaFerla, Ph.D., director of UC Irvine's Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, and Matthew Blurton-Jones, Ph.D., of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, UC Irvine, have shown for the first time that neural stem cells can rescue memory in mice with advanced Alzheimer's disease, raising hope for a potential treatment in humans. Their work is expected to move to clinical trials in less than five years.
Huntington's Disease: Huntington's disease is a degenerative and ultimately fatal brain disorder that takes away a person's ability to walk, talk and reason. It affects about 30,000 people in the U.S. with another 200,000 or more likely to inherit the disorder. Leslie Thompson, Ph.D., and her team of researchers are currently investigating new stem cell lines and techniques to support the area of the brain that is susceptible to the disease with the hope of developing a cure for future generations.
Macular Degeneration, Retinitis Pigmentosa and Inherited Blindness: Henry Klassen, M.D., Ph.D. has focused his stem cell research on regenerating damaged retinal tissue to restore sight to people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (an inherited form of degenerative eye disease) and macular degeneration which usually affects older people and leads to loss of vision. Macular degeneration affects millions of Americans. His work hopes to find cures and treatments for corneal and retinal eye disease.
New Website Helps Spread the Word Online
To commemorate International Stem Cell Awareness Day and encourage support of stem cell research, an interactive website has been created. Advocates are asked to visit www.StemCellsOfferHope.com and share online a wide range of key facts, downloadable images and links to other valuable resources within their social networks.
International Stem Cell Awareness Day Events at UC Irvine
The Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UC Irvine will celebrate International Stem Cell Awareness Day by hosting three special events. An open house will take place on Oct. 1 for high school students. A UC Irvine student, faculty and staff open house will take place on Oct. 2. Finally, an all-day science symposium on Oct. 3 will feature a "Meet the Scientist" interactive forum. The forum and symposium are open to all UC Irvine scientists, clinicians, graduate students, post-docs and members of the community. To RSVP for any these events or for more information, include the name of the event in the subject line and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, University of California, Irvine: The Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, University of California, Irvine is one of the largest most technologically advanced stem cell research facilities in the U.S. The center was established in 2010 in part through a $10 million gift from Bill Gross, founder and co-chief investment officer of international investment firm PIMCO, and his wife Sue. For more than 40 years, its team of scientists and multiple research and graduate assistants have worked to unlock the potential of stem cells for treating and curing an estimated 70 major diseases and disorders. For more information, visit stemcell.uci.edu