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Bench-to-bedside look at MSC research at Case Western Reserve conference in Cleveland
Aug 24, 2007 - 3:59:37 AM

CLEVELAND—Researchers from 22 countries will come to Cleveland for a bench to bedside examination of the developing mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) from regenerative medicine and stem cell research to therapeutics in patient care. The National Center for Regenerative Medicine for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (NCRM) and founding partner Case Western Reserve University have organized the 2007 Adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine Conference, August 27-29, at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Cleveland, to highlight advances in MSC research. The conference is the first organized by the two groups on MSCs.

It leads off with Arnold Caplan, Case Western Reserve professor of biology and director of the Skeletal Research Center in the College of Arts and Sciences. In the late 1980s, science literature hinted of MSCs’ existence, but it was research by Caplan - with Case collaborators Stephen Haynesworth (biology, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences), Stanton Gerson (director of NCRM and the Ireland Cancer Center) and Hillard Lazarus (director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the Ireland Cancer Center) - that led to the MSC discovery in Case labs.

When Caplan first discovered the MSCs, little was known about their potential uses, but that has changed. “MSC research is exploding and getting more recognition as the research moves into the clinic,” he said. “The therapeutic field has finally caught up with the research potentials.”

His discovery paved the way for a great deal of research, at Case and other institutions, to develop MSC applications.

Since MSCs were found to have regenerative properties, Caplan, Haynesworth and Gerson established Osiris Therapeutics, Inc., to take the lab research into human therapies. This company, although originally started in Cleveland, Ohio, relocated to Baltimore, Md., and has successfully become a publically traded company. Randall Mills, the CEO of Osiris, will give the concluding talk on Wednesday to provide insight into running clinical trials using MSCs to almost 300 doctors and researchers attending the conference.

“Educating researchers in methods and models in mesenchymal stem cell technology has been a priority of our key investigators Drs. Caplan and Gerson, who are part of the MSC 2007 organizing committee,” said Michael Gilkey, NCMR’s marketing and operations manager. “We also are establishing Cleveland in the biotechnology world as the place to be for stem cell research.”

Cleveland has been a leader in regenerative medicine and stem cell applications. The multi-institutional NCRM, including Case, University Hospitals Case Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic, provides a comprehensive approach, including basic and clinical research as well as biomedical and tissue engineering, to develop new adult (non-embryonic) stem cell therapies for patients suffering from chronic and debilitating diseases including heart disease, cancer, genetic disorders and neurodegenerative diseases and injuries such as multiple sclerosis. Currently, NCRM has more than 27 ongoing clinical trials using adult stem cells and provides a comprehensive approach to developing therapies for patients suffering from chronic and debilitating diseases.

Caplan stated that Case Western Reserve and Cleveland health care institutions have done more protocols in MSC clinical research than other cities. Currently Osiris Therapeutic has clinical trials for MSC use in regenerating tissue and repairing the body injuries from cancer, Crohn’s disease, heart attacks and cartilage damage.

MSC research by Caplan and colleagues has focused on ways in which these cells can be used to restore and repair bone and cartilage. His most recent discovery was a method in which bone marrow cells were grown on three-dimensional scaffolds made of a substance called hyaluronon, which is found naturally in the body. Hyaluronon acts as a lubricant for joints, absorbing the impact caused by everyday movements. Hyaluronon also makes cartilage more elastic. Signals from hyaluronon trigger MSC to migrate to specific tissue. The results of the most recent research indicates great potential for treating musculoskeletal conditions such as fractures or bone loss.

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