Bhaskar Chanda is a Project Manager and Associate Scientist at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine of the University Health Network (UHN). Take a peak at this short video to learn a little more about Bhaskar, his education, his work, and his approach to the work he does. He has studied in multiple countries such as India and Canada. Chanda’s work has been published in many top-tier scientific journals. Bhaskar Chanda is very passionate about his occupation.
Stem cell research involves the use of stem cells to treat a diverse range of muscular, developmental, cardiovascular, brain, and other medical problems. Controversial by nature, stem cells are derived from the creation, destruction, and exploitation of human embryos. Though stem cells can be adapted from adult cells as well as taken from human embryos, the two sources provide stem cells that serve separate and unique functions, and both are needed for stem cell research to reach it’s full potential.
Stem cells promise a lot to the medical field because they possess the ability to develop into many different types of cells in the body. Stem cells use cell division to multiply limitlessly, and are distinct from other cells in that they are totally unspecialized. Being unspecialized means that a stem cell’s function can be decided based on need, giving stem cells the potential to replenish cells in the body of nearly any type – red blood cells, muscle cells, organ-specific cells, bone marrow, brain, skin, etc. This opens the door to curing countless diseases, defects, trauma, and ailments as research progresses. With adequate research, stem cells can help us understand how an organism develops from a single cell, how healthy cells replace damaged ones in adults, and what causes birth defects.
Stem cells have the potential to be particularly effective in treating type 1 diabetes. Most recently, experts have developed human insulin producing beta cells, the cells that diabetes destroys. While they still haven’t figured a way to prevent diabetes from attacking the stem cell generated beta cells, this is a giant leap forward in the cure for type 1 diabetes. This is just a glimpse into the potential that stem cells have to treat medical problems that were previously thought untreatable. With the potential to multiply through cell division and specialize into virtually any function, the possibilities for stem cell research are boundless.
There are many misconceptions surrounding stem cell research and procedures in the United States. Where the endeavor is widely approved of in European countries, the United States continues to remain wary, based in the assumption that embryonic stem cells required for the method of therapy come from aborted fetuses. This assumption is actually completely incorrect, as the cells come are extracted from fatty tissue in the stomach.
According to an article recently completed by the Chicago Tribune, Julia Szabo, author of the book Medicine Dog: The Miraculous Cure that Healed My Best Friend and Saved My Life, this misconception is causing a lot of people to miss out on the opportunity to heal some of their more challenging afflictions. In her case, stem cell therapy healed not only her own struggles with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but her dog’s issues with arthritic joints. In the novel, she details the procedure her dog Sam underwent as a means of definitively declaring that the stem cells do not come from aborted fetuses. Under anesthesia, Sam underwent liposuction—essentially a basic “tummy tuck,” in which the fatty tissue of the stomach was extracted. The tissue was then sent to Vet-Stem, a company that provides regenerative stem cell therapy for animals, which Szabo found through a simple search of the Internet. Vet-Stem then processed the tissue in centrifuge, separating the stem cells from the fat. The cells are placed in vials and delivered to the veterinarian on dry ice. From there, the cells are introduced to the animal’s system through two methods—direct injection into pet’s arthritic joints and intravenously into the bloodstream.
After the procedure, Szabo saw notable improvement in the dog’s ability to travel within hours. Within weeks the dog was completely healed. Szabo decided to pursue the procedure herself after a particularly bad event involving her Irritable Bowel Syndrome landed her in the emergency room. A Vet-Stem authority she had worked with on her dog’s cased suggested the therapy for her ailment as well, referring her to the California Stem Cell Treatment Center in the process. Now Szabo is able to live an entirely normal life, free of her IBS.
The therapy comes at a hefty price, however. The pet’s procedure cost Szabo over two thousand five hundred dollars; her own stem cell therapy cost around nine thousand dollars. The rates are high, as insurances do not cover the procedure—it is FDA compliant, but not FDA approved.
A recent article in the Washington Post discusses a new study in stem cell research that could be beneficial for severe stroke patients. The United Kingdom’s Imperial College London just came out with a study that suggests that an injection of stem cells to the brain of a patient who has just suffered a recent stroke could aid their long-term recovery.
A stroke by definition occurs when the brain experiences a reduction or interruption of blood flow. The stem cell in question that could help with stroke victim’s long-term recovery would reproduce new blood vessels in the brain. By increasing the amount of blood vessels in the brain, stroke patients could have the ability to recover and take care of themselves more quickly than with previous treatment methods.
As the United Kingdom’s Imperial College London is working on their hypothesis, they are treating stroke patients within a week of their last stroke. These patients showed signs of recovery after a six-month period. There have only been five patients included in this study, so there is not sufficient evidence to support a full out hypothesis. The general hospital care and other treatment could also be a factor in the patient’s recovery rather than just the stem cell injections. Regardless of the actual cause of recovery, these five patients demonstrated exceptionally quick recovery rates.
Four out of the five patients recovered from the most sever stroke disorder. This type of disorder has low percentages of not only recovery rates, but also survival rates. Three of the five patients were able to live on their own after the six-month study.
The next steps for this stem cell research will be to expand the study to 50 patients with a control group and randomized treatment. The goal of this study will be to see if the injection of stem cells into stroke victim’s brains really had an effect on the patient’s recovery.
A recent article in SFGate discusses the cure for HIV and how stem cell therapy is developing towards a possible cure. Two teams of scientists from the San Francisco Bay Area are heading towards a method of HIV treatment that does not involve daily medication. It involves stem cell therapy. The scientists are focusing on DNA of elite controllers. These are people who are naturally resistant to HIV due to a mutation that prevents the HIV cells from attaching to their immune cells. An elite controller donated bone marrow to the first patient cured of HIV, Timothy Brown, and scientists believe that it was the genetic mutation of the bone marrow that lead towards Timothy’s recovery.
The article continues to state that bone marrow transplants are typically risky and expensive. Thus, a scientist would abstract stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow and alter the stem cells to become HIV-resistant. A discovery done in the mid-1990s found that there is a specific genetic mutation that blocks a certain protein called CCR5. HIV easily attaches to CCR5, so by eliminating CCR5 from immune cells, it would be much harder for HIV cells to attach to immune cells. Scientists believe that only one percent of the population contain this genetic mutation where their CCR5 protein is genetically altered in a way so that HIV cells can not latch on to them.
The article continues to state that once the altered stem cells are replenished in the patient’s body, they will be able to replenish the immune system without any other treatment or transplants. The hope is that once the genetically altered cells are put into the body, the immune system will produce more of the HIV-resistant cell as a response to fight the virus. This is considered to be a functional cure, where the HIV cells will still remain in the body, but they will not be causing any damage.
The ideal therapy would involve a patient receiving a single injection that would re-engineer the stem cells in the body rather than removing the stem cells and treating them in a lab.
For anyone visiting this site who doesn’t have a basic knowledge of what stem cell research is about, here’s a brief fact sheet that will help clarify things a bit.
Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated biological cells that have the ability to differentiate into specialized cell types and eventually divide to create more stem cells. There are generally two types: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.
What are embryonic stem cells?
The stem cells come from four to five-day-old human embryos in the blastocyst development phase. Most of these embryos have been created in IVF clinics, where a number of eggs are fertilized but only one has actually been used.
What are adult stem cells?
Also called somatic stem cells, these exist throughout the human body long after embryonic development and can be found in various organs and types of tissue, including the brain, the bone marrow, skin, skeletal muscles, blood and blood vessels, and the liver, where they remain undifferentiated until activated by a disease or some type of tissue damage.
What are iPS cells?
Induced pluripotent stem cells are somatic cells that have been genetically reverted to an embryonic state. They can be used to develop new drugs and model difficult diseases.
Why are stem cells useful?
Because these cells are undifferentiated and can be induced into becoming a particular cell type, this technology offers the hope of a renewable source for replacement cells to treat diseases, disorders, and conditions as diverse as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injury, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, burns, stroke, dramatic brain injury, and cancer.
Contrary to the popular believe that drug invention and intervention has defectively increased mortality of human life, a recent study by Huseyin Naci, John P A Ioannidis and Co. suggests that exercise is as effective as drug therapy in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, rehabilitation after stroke, care of heart failure, and prevention of diabetes – combined together as the major cause of human mortality. This fascinating study, published by a group consisting of researchers from London School of Economics, Stanford University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, combines data from over 300,000 participants in 305 randomized controlled trials.
Implications | One: the evidence base for exercise in chronic disease is woefully lacking and skewed in favor of drug-based approaches. Two: even the limited available evidence indicates that exercise is often at least as effective as drugs at preventing death from the most common killer diseases. This meta-epidemiological review is the first to compare the mortality benefits of exercise and drug interventions. This comprehensive look at the existing body of evidence highlights the need to perform randomised trials on the comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions. Given the scarcity of financial resources to fund future trials of exercise interventions, one option would be to require such evidence from pharmaceutical companies that are under increasing pressure to perform active-comparator trials for market entry. For example, regulators should consider requiring pharmaceutical sponsors of new drugs to include exercise interventions as an active comparator arm in drug trials. In cases where drug options provide only modest benefit, patients deserve to understand the relative impact that physical activity might have on their condition.
Snapshot: Last 100 years Earth’s temperature has increased by ½° Celsius. So global warming is not a threat? Wrong!
Even a slight rise in the global temperature can lead to devastating effects; more concerned will be those living in the coastal area. The incremental rise in temperature over the years has caused rapid melting of several glaciers in Antarctica leading to 160 billion tonnes/year ice-loss into the ocean, twice the amount of a few years ago, according to a resent study published in Science. Antarctica is the source the world’s largest ice sheets and fresh water. NASA has also voiced its concern and estimated that the glaciers’ retreat may have already “reached the point of no return.” Such shedding of ice would increase the sea level by ~4 feet and consequently decrease the land to water ratio; growing population, reducing land space – the problem is clear and at the door-step!
Although in recent years, overall global surface temperatures haven’t risen as quickly as in the past, even as emissions of so-called greenhouse gases have continued to grow, leading some skeptics to suggest that global warming has already peaked. In their view, predictions of dire future climate consequences—such as the ice melt and sea-level rises projected here—are overblown. Well, for those naysayers here are some fun facts – Antarctica holds about 60% of the planet’s fresh water, locked into the millions of cubic miles of polar ice sheets. If these ice sheets melt they would increase sea levels around the world by 10 feet or so. What are the impacts? Around 950 million people (~14% of the entire world population) live in coastal areas within 30 feet of sea level, and a rise of 1.34 feet of sea level, lets say in Bangladesh, would create 7–10 million climate refugee – scary, isn’t it?
Until now, polar experts were confident that the ice sheet of Antarctica, which is much larger than its Arctic counterpart, can be held intact by the coastal glaciers anchored to the sea floor. However, warming of ocean water has caused these ice-sheets to float freely, and melt more rapidly. According to the aforementioned study published in Science, it could take from 200 to 900 years for the entire ice sheet to melt. We may not be able to stop the process, but we can slow it down with consensus, educated and smart choices for a better tomorrow – United We Stand!
It turns out this was a big month for stem cell research, for medical biophysics, and for science and humanity in general. In two separate journals, two separate groups of scientists published that they had used cloning technology to create stem cells that genetically match specific adult patients, and can be used to produce any cell type in those patients.
In nature, an embryo forms after a sperm cell fertilizes an egg. In these studies, scientists placed the nucleus of an adult skin cell inside the ovum and watched as the artificially reconstructed egg went through all the primary stages of embryonic development. Stem cells are useful because they can potentially develop into any type of body tissue, meaning they could be used to treat numerous diseases, syndromes, and injuries.
The approach was first suggested about twenty years ago by John Gearhart, who serves as director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Just last year, Shoukhrat Mitalipov and his colleagues at Oregon Health & Science University published a groundbreaking report, announcing they had created coned embryos using skin cells from a fetus and a baby. The study was expanded upon this year by a group at the CHA Stem Cell Institute in South Korea led by Young Gie Chung, as well as a group at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute led by Dieter Egli. While the former used skin cells from a 35-year-old man and a 75-year-old man, the latter used skin cells from a 32-year-old woman with Type 1 diabetes.
Congratulations to both teams! It’s an honor to be working in a field where brilliant problem solvers are making new discoveries every day, discoveries that promise to save and change lives.