Canadian, Japanese scientists team up to accelerate work on stem cell therapies
Thu Oct 16, 5:47 PM
By The Canadian Press
TORONTO - Canadian and Japanese stem cell researchers are joining forces in a bid to more quickly translate scientific discoveries from the lab into treatments for people with such diseases as autism and cystic fibrosis.
The University of Toronto and Japan's Kyoto University signed a research-sharing agreement in Tokyo on Thursday that will bring together world-renowned stem cell researchers in Toronto with the Japanese lab of Dr. Shinya Yamanaka.
Yamanaka shook the science world last year by converting normal adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells have the ability to differentiate into any type of tissue in the body, from heart and liver to brain and skin. But the idea of harvesting stem cells from human embryos is ethically contentious.
Yamanaka's discovery would allow scientists to get around restrictions regarding generation of stem cells from embryos, meaning research should move at a faster pace.
"Shinya Yamanaka and his team have developed some of the world's most important technology in stem cell research, and the team at U of T is among the best at differentiating cells to produce innovative therapies," Bill Stanford, associate director at the university's Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, said in a statement.
"Together, we'll share patient samples, technologies and protocols to get basic science to the clinic much faster."
The collaboration should greatly speed up development of drug therapies, said Stanford, who believes cell-replacement therapy also will be a reality in the not-too-distant future.
"We are already known as one of the best places in the world for stem cell research because of our genetic diversity, unique medical system and concentration of top-notch scientists ... and it will certainly bolster home-grown opportunities for commercialization."