Archive for February, 2013


By Don C. Reed

Thursday, March 7 • 6:30 pm – 7:45 pm

Grand Ballroom, Hyatt Regency San Francisco
5 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, California, USA 94111

Folks, this is something wonderful—and it’s free! Normally, admission to a gathering of these top scientists might cost a thousand bucks or up, especially in an intimate setting where you can meet them one on one—but on March 7th, you are invited as California’s guest.

It will be short, just an hour and a half, but intense, not to be missed. There are three parts to it:

First, twenty minutes to check out the latest research on “people-talk” posters in the back of the room. Normally, scientific posters describing medical breakthroughs are very tough reading, but these will be aimed at people like you and me– the general public.

Four outstanding scientists/doctors/advocates will speak for eight minutes each. They are:

Patient Advocacy
Francisco Prieto, President of the Sacramento-Sierra chapter of the American Diabetes Association

“All of us – scientists, doctors, advocates – don’t just work in some abstract environment. We try to gain knowledge, not just for its own sake, or because we’re curious creatures (though we are), but because we can use that knowledge to improve our lives and prevent suffering…we should all be advocates.”

Eugene P. Brandon, Ph.D., Director, Strategic Relations and Project Management, ViaCyte

“ViaCyte is harnessing the versatility of stem cells to develop an entirely new therapy for insulin-dependent diabetes. The planned product is a credit card-sized medical device, worn under the skin, which contains cells designed to restore the normal blood glucose regulation that patients have lost. If the product works in humans as it does in mice, it may alleviate not only the short term requirements for frequent blood glucose monitoring and insulin rejections, but also the more dire and costly long term aspects of diabetes such as blindness and amputations.”

Spinal Cord Injury
Mark H. Tuszynski, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience, U.C. San Diego

“We have found that neural stem cells have an astonishing ability to send new connections (“axons”) into the injured spinal cord. This represents a new and exciting target for potential therapy of SCI. It is a very different approach when compared to previous efforts to use stem cells to treat SCI.”

Nancy E. Lane, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Rheumatology, U.C. Davis

“To fight osteoporosis, we are bringing the patient’s own stem cells to the surface of the bone to grow new bone.”

After their brief remarks, twenty of America’s best researchers (see below) will be available to you for personal questions. They will not lecture, but walk around the room, meeting you.

Each scientist will have a badge on with the name of the disease—ALZHEIMER’S, for example—and all you have to is walk up, say hello and ask your question.

Here are their names—champions all:


Jeanne Loring, Scripps Institute, Multiple Sclerosis

Claude Bernard, Monash University, Multiple Sclerosis

Heather Schultheiz, Scripps Institute, Cancer and Stem Cells

Ileana Slavin, Scripps Institute, Parkinson’s Disease

Karen Aboody, City of Hope, Brain Cancer

John Zaia, City of Hope, HIV/AIDS

Geoff Symonds, Calimmune, HIV/AIDS

Eugene Brandon, Viacyte, Diabetes

Allan Robins, Viacyte, Diabetes

Dhruv Sareen, Cedars Sinai, Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Dennis Cleg, UC Santa Barbara, Blindness

Roxanne Croze, UC Santa Barbara, Blindness

Joseph Gold, Stanford, Heart Disease

Catriona Jamieson, UC San Diego, Leukemia

Fay Jiang, UC San Diego, Leukemia

Henry Klassen, UC Irvine, Blindness

Jing Yang, UC Irvine, Blindness

Jan Nolta, UC Davis, Huntington’s Disease

Heart Disease (not scheduled yet)

Alzheimer’s (not scheduled yet)

Don Gibbons, CIRM

Kevin McCormack, CIRM

Geoff Lomax, CIRM

Amy Adams, CIRM

Jonathan Thomas, CIRM

Maria Bonneville, CIRM

If you follow stem cell research, you will recognize many of these names. These are the best.

And you have a chance to meet them in person, and ask how stem cells may help defeat diseases you care about the most—because someone you love is affected.

Below is your official invitation from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine: PLEASE RSVP—it’s easy!


(And for more information, contact Don Gibbons, whose information is below.)


Don C. Reed

Please share the invitation below with family and friends and ask them to register online if they want to attend this opportunity to hear about progress in stem cell research.

We hope you will be our guests at:

Teaming up for cures: Progress and promise in stem cell research

Thursday March 7 • 6:30 pm – 7:45 pm

Grand Ballroom
Hyatt Regency San Francisco
5 Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, California, USA 94111

FREE event. Light snacks will be provided and a cash bar will be available.

Come learn how your state stem cell agency is fueling the development of new therapies for debilitating diseases and conditions like blindness, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

California’s stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), is hosting an interactive presentation to update you on the latest in stem cell research and to give you a chance to ask scientists about progress in a disease that matters to you.

There will be brief presentations on the power of patient advocacy, and on the progress being made using stem cells to treat diabetes, osteoporosis and spinal cord injury. In addition, before and after these presentations, you can view lay-level posters about progress in several other diseases and chat one-on-one with researchers. The disease they are researching will be boldly identified on their nametags and they will be prepared to take your questions.

The state stem cell agency supports teams of researchers working toward therapies in 40 different diseases. This event will highlight a few of those teams developing stem cell therapies.

***!!! —We request that people planning to attend, RSVP at this web site:





For more information, including Press Opportunities, contact:

Don L. Gibbons

Senior Science and Education Communication Officer

California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

“California’s Stem Cell Agency”

210 King Street

San Francisco, CA94107





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Amazing Team Research at the California Stem Cell Program

By Don C. Reed

As high as $20 million each, the disease team grants are the most spectacular research projects offered by the California stem cell program.


The challenge is enormous: to succeed, each team of scientists must bring a therapy to human trials within just four years. At every step of the way milestones of progress must be met, or the funding stops—and every disease these teams will challenge has been declared chronic: incurable. A victory here would change medical history.

How are they doing? On March 19th, the next public meeting of the California stem cell program’s board of directors, there will be an update on the 25 teams in action now.


Here are the teams: may they all succeed.

1. ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: Alexandra Capela, of Stem Cells Inc., wants to transplant neural stem cells directly into the hippocampus portion of the brain, attempting to “markedly restore memory and thus, quality of life, for patients.”


2. BLINDNESS: Mark Humayun, USC, estimates that “by 2020, over 450,000 Californians will suffer from vision loss or blindness due to age-related macular degeneration…the loss of a layer of cells at the back of the eye…this can be overcome by transplanting (new) cells derived from embryonic stem cells…”


3. BLINDNESS: Henry Klassen, UC Irvine, hopes to use cells to treat retinitis pigmentosa, (RP) a severe disease of the eye. His approach is to “save the light-sensing cells of the eye… an application will be made to the FDA… following approval, a small number of patients with severe RP will be injected with cells in their worse-seeing eye.”


4. BRAIN TUMORS: Karen Aboody, City of Hope, has built a stem cell bank to make her prospective attempt at destroying brain tumors widely available. Her techniques may also remove “solid tumors throughout the body”…” applicable to other deadly growths.


5. CANCER: Dennis Slamon, UCLA, points out that “ a minor population of cancer stem cells drives the growth of an entire tumor…” These trigger-like cells can bring back the cancer which appeared to be gone. Fortunately, says Slaymon, “our lead drug can inhibit the growth of cancer stem cells.”


6. CANCER: Judith Shizuru, Stanford, hopes to “enable chemotherapy free transplants”, with the use of a selected antibody. The same technique might also save the lives of children born with an immune-system defect, Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID), who often die before the age of two.


7. CANCER: Antoni Ribas, UCLA, seeks to reprogram stem cells, hoping to “redirect the patient’s immune response to specifically attack the cancer….”


8. CRITICAL LIMB ISCHEMIA: John Laird, UC Davis, hopes to benefit two million Americans currently at risk of leg amputation or death. Since a key problem in this condition is low oxygen level in the affected limbs, Laird has shown that stem cells can “migrate into the areas of lowest oxygen…wrap around the damaged…blood vessels…and secrete (helpful) factors where needed most…” A stem cell hug of life!


9. DIABETES: ViaCyte, Inc. is challenging diabetes, using embryonic stem cells to build “beta cells, which have been shown to cure experimental diabetes in mice and rats… could become the most significant stem cell-based medical treatment of the coming decade…”


10. HEART ATTACK: Rachel Smith, of Capricor, Inc., wants to use stem cells to turn heart attack scars back into healthy tissue. As scarring makes the next heart attack more likely, Smith’s method may save lives.


11. HEART ATTACK: Eduardo Marban of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, says: “The adult human heart contains small numbers of cardiac stem cells that are able to partially repair the heart following a heart attack…we have developed a way to isolate these cells and grow them to large numbers…” Clusters of these cells could be injected into the heart– even in the middle of a heart attack.


12. HEART FAILURE: Robert Robbins, Stanford, intends to use “embryonic stem cell-derived (heart cells) for patients with end stage heart failure…transplanting cells rather than a whole heart….”


13. HIV/AIDS: Irving Chen, UCLA, believes that the process which can change the color of a flower (RNA interference) may “block the spread of HIV infection…”. Right now, surviving with AIDS means requires several dozen pills a day. But the Chen method could mean “a therapy that will require only a single treatment…”


14. HIV/AIDS: John Zaia, City of Hope, may have found a way to duplicate a “cure” of an AIDS patient who received a bone marrow transplant with a mutation called delta-32. This mutation apparently blocks entry of the AIDS virus. It may be possible to alter a patient’s cells so that they can also block the virus.


15. HUNTINGTON’S DISEASE: Vicki Wheelock, UC Davis, hopes to fight the fatal disease with stem cells as a delivery vehicle: bringing a nerve-growth factor called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, (BDNF) to the at-risk nerve cells.


16. LEUKEMIA: Catriona Jamieson and Dennis Carson of UCSD are fighting an after-treatment problem with the deadly disease; it often leaves small amounts of leukemia stem cells still alive, to come back stronger later. The Carson team hopes to make anti-leukemia drugs available soon.


17. LEUKEMIA: Irv Weissman, Stanford. The body’s protective cells, macrophages, should “eat” the leukemia invaders—but they don’t. A marker cell called CD-47 on the leukemia cells acts like a “don’t eat me” sticker. But if the marker could be removed….


18. LOU GEHRIG’S DISEASE: Larry Goldstein, UCSD, hopes to prevent the progression of the fatal disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) by using astrocytes (nerve support cells) developed from embryonic stem cells.


19. LOU GEHRIG’S DISEASE: Clive Svendsen, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, wants to use nerve “fertilizer” (Glial Derived Neurotrophic Factor, GDNF) to treat the deadly disease. Svendsen wants to use neural progenitor cells as “Trojan horses”, to carry the GDNF to the nerve cells, where it is needed.


20. MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY: Stanley Nelson, UCLA, is tackling the devastating and muscle-wasting disease. Nelson’s technique brings repairs “directly inside each muscle cell”… and is “predicted to lessen the disease severity…”


21. OSTEOPOROSIS: Nancy Lane, UC Davis, wants to strengthen the bones of the elderly, and thereby lessen the number of bone fractures they suffer. In osteoporosis, bones can grow almost transparently thin and accordingly weak. Lane has developed a small molecule that directs stem cells to grow the skeleton stronger.


22. SICKLE CELL DISEASE: Donald Kohn, UCLA, offers a stem cell therapy for the agonizing and often fatal disease. The blood cells change shape into a c-shape like a sickle, said to cause pain like broken glass in the veins. Kohn’s approach will transplant “adult cells that are genetically corrected by…a gene that blocks sickling…”


23. SKIN DISEASE: Alfred Lane, Stanford, hopes to use induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC)s to combat a hideous disease, dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, in which the skin literally rips apart. His method may treat other skin disorders as well.


24. SPINAL CORD INJURY: Nobuko Uchida, Stem Cells Inc., wants to transplant neural stem cells into the spine to ease chronic cervical spinal cord injury. His method has restored motion in animal models, and “could potentially reverse paralysis and improve the patient’s quality of life.” For paralyzed people, even a small improvement is hugely positive: perhaps the difference between needing an attendant and not.


25. STROKE: Gary Steinberg, Stanford, calls stroke “the number one cause of disability, the second leading cause of dementia, and the third leading cause of death in adults…” His team will use embryonic stem cells– to make neural stem cells– to “augment the body’s natural repair process after stroke.”


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