UGA to host workshop examining stem cell therapies for spinal cord injury

UGA to host workshop examining stem cell therapies for spinal cord injury

Athens, Ga. – Following President Barack Obama’s decision to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, medical and scientific experts will converge at the University of Georgia to discuss how recent advances in stem cell research can be translated into cures for spinal cord injuries.

The second Spinal Cord Workshop, a program of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation, will be held on Saturday, April 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences.

Every year close to 11,000 people sustain spinal cord injuries in the United States, while more than 200,000 Americans live each day with a disability caused by them.

“Because spinal cord injury usually occurs in otherwise healthy, young adults, it is an especially attractive candidate for a cure for stem cell therapy,” said Ann Kiessling, director of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation. “The big question is whether a ‘moon shot’ approach will produce a cure, or if there is still too much basic science yet unknown.”

The workshop is hosted by UGA’s Regenerative Bioscience Center. Additional support is provided by the UGA Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta and Millipore, Inc.

“The University of Georgia is fortunate to team up with the Bedford Foundation to host these leading experts in spinal cord therapies to discuss and develop new paths forward for spinal cord injuries,” said Steven Stice, director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center. “In addition, Georgia’s recent legislation aimed at restricting stem cell research makes this workshop an especially timely one.”

Created in 1996, the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation is a Massachusetts-based public charity and biomedical institute that exists to conduct stem cell and related research for diseases and conditions that currently have no cure.

The Regenerative Bioscience Center brings UGA’s expertise, resources and accomplishments in human embryonic stem cell research under one umbrella, while contributing to the University’s educational and outreach missions with student research experiences and public lectures, symposia, and workshops communicating the benefits and risks of regenerative bioscience.

The event serves as a follow-up to the inaugural Spinal Cord Workshop held at UGA in March 2008, titled “Spinal Cord Injury: What Are The Barriers To Cure?”

Workshop faculty this year include:

  • Hans Keirstead, Ph.D, associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, University of California at Irvine, Reeve-Irvine Research Center;
  • Douglas Kerr, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology, molecular biology and immunology, and director, John Hopkins Transverse Myelitis Center;
  • John W. McDonald, M.D., Ph.D., director, International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, Kennedy Krieger Institute;
  • Steven L. Stice, Ph.D., professor, GRA Eminent Scholar, director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia and CSO, Aruna Biomedical Inc;
  • Keith Tansey, M.D., Ph.D., director, Spinal Cord Injury Research, Shepherd Center;
  • Scott Wittemore, Ph.D., professor and vice chairman for research, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Louisville;
  • Wise Young, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Rutgers University, and director, W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience.

Registration information for the 2009 workshop, as well as video from the 2008 workshop talks, is available online at http://www.spinalcordworkshop.org.