Thursday, December 20, 2012

Most popular stem cell stories of 2012: diabetes, spinal cord injury, and what the future holds

This is the time of year when everybody is posting their year end best-of list. Not wanting to be left out, I went through to find our top blog entries of the year. What I learned is that readers are eager to know about progress toward therapies, which makes perfect sense. As an agency, we exist because voters wanted to accelerate the path to new therapies and that’s just what we’ve been trying to do.

1. Our top blog post is about a video we produced to explain an exciting project working toward a therapy for diabetes. I think this post is so popular because it not only explains the science, it includes two people who are living with diabetes explaining why it’s so important to find a cure.

2011 Annual Report: Toward a stem cell therapy for diabetes

2. In June, CIRM grantee Irv Weissman at Stanford University wrote about the barriers that stand in the way of developing new therapies. That publication includes perhaps my all time favorite line of any scientific paper: “So, whom have I failed to annoy here?” He’s outspoken, but only because he cares. Here’s an excerpt from the paper, which appeared in Cell Stem Cell:
Remember, right now our patients, friends, and families are contracting diseases that have a very short window of opportunity in which regenerative therapies can save them, and each delay removes a cohort of them from possible cures. We should not fail them.
Irv Weissman on the many barriers to stem cell therapies and why they matter

3. Next on our list of most popular blogs is one that describes a conversation I had with Katie Sharify, the fifth person to participate in Geron’s now-closed trial for spinal cord injury. In includes a link to a video of our conversation, in which she talks about how she made the decision to participate and what she hoped to get out of the trial. “I was part of something that was bigger than me, and bigger than all of you.”

Fifth Geron stem cell trial participant discusses her experience

4. Earlier this year we filmed an Ask the Expert video in which we talked to CIRM grantee Lawrence Goldstein about stem cell therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. As part of that conversation, we discussed what he saw in the future for stem cell science. In our blog entry about that video we quote Goldstein, "If the public continues to adequately fund research with stem cells we will see breakthroughs that are absolutely unexpected and that will change the way that we deliver medicine."

Looking into the stem cell crystal ball: what's next?

5. In September of this year, StemCells Inc reported that two patients in their clinical trial for spinal cord injury were recovering well and seemed to have gained some sensation. We weren’t funding the work at the time, though the trial is based on work by our grantees at UC Irvine. The company recently received a disease team award to further fund this trial.

CIRM grantees show preliminary signs of success in spinal cord injury trial

Our YouTube site shows a similar focus on stem cell therapies, with videos about Parkinson’s disease, Diabetes, ALS, and macular degeneration in the top five. The only top video that didn’t describe a CIRM team working toward therapies was one about a talk given by Craig Venter about the power of genomic research.

A.A.

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