Archived — Canadian asset map for stem cell and regenerative medicine

Focus of stem cell and tissue engineering researchers


Of the 416 researchers working in stem cell and regenerative medicine research, 303 (73 percent) work with stem cells of some type, while 79 (19 percent) work in tissue engineering (Figure 6). The others work in social sciences and humanities (n=16), bioprocessing (n=6), various stem cell technologies such as high throughput sorting/analysis or cryopreservation (n=9), or their regenerative medicine research focus was unspecified (n=3).

Figure 6: Percentage of Researchers Working in Each Major Discipline (n=416)

Percentage of Researchers Working in Each Major Discipline (n=416)

Within the stem cell research area, the majority of researchers (54 percent, n=166) work with tissue-specific stem cells. Forty nine (16 percent) investigators work with pluripotent stem cells, while 30 work with cancer stem cells (10 percent). Another 29 (10 percent) work with a number of different stem cell types ("various"), with at least 17 working with both tissue-specific and pluripotent (Figure 7). The specific targets of many of these researchers can be found in Appendix 3b.

Figure 7: Focus of Stem Cell Research (n=303)

Focus of Stem Cell Research (n=303)

4.1 Pluripotent Stem Cells

As described previously, pluripotent stem cells consist of embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells. Of the 49 researchers who work only with pluripotent stem cells, the majority focus on embryonic stem cells (84 percent exclusively, another 12 percent working with both types, i.e., 96 percent in total). Similarly with the 17 who work with both pluripotent and tissue-specific cells, 82 percent focus on embryonic stem cells (65 percent exclusively, another 17 percent working with both types). Thus, of all 66 researchers who work with pluripotent stem cells, whether or not exclusively, 92 percent work with embryonic stem cells. Twenty percent (n=13) of researchers working with pluripotent stem cells work with those that have been induced (four [6 percent] with induced pluripotent stem cells only, with or without tissue-specific cells; and nine [14 percent] with both types of pluripotent stem cells, again with or without tissue-specific cells) (Figure 8). Individual researchers working with each group of cells are listed in Appendix 3b.

Figure 8: Focus of Pluripotent Stem Cell Researchers (n=66)

Focus of Pluripotent Stem Cell Researchers (n=66)

4.2 Tissue-Specific Stem Cells (Somatic)

The majority of Canadian stem cell researchers work with tissue-specific cells. These can take many different forms as shown in Figure 9.

Of the 166 researchers who only work with tissue-specific stem cells, 58 (36 percent) work with hematopoietic cells. The next most important stem cell types are bone marrow/mesenchymal and neural cells. Bone marrow contains at least two kinds of stem cells: hematopoietic stem cells that form all types of blood cells and mesenchymal stem cells that can generate bone, cartilage, fat, cells that support the formation of blood, and fibrous connective tissue.Footnote 15 In most cases where a researcher mentioned bone marrow stem cells, the kind of stem cell was not specified. In regard to neural stem cells, these include stem cells derived from the brain, spinal cord, and eye. The category of "other" included the few researchers who were working with the stem cells listed at the end of Figure 9. Two of the researchers working with a number of ("various") different stem cell types also worked with these rarer stem types. The tissue-specific focus of individual researchers can be found in Appendix 3b.

Figure 9: Focus of Tissue-Specific Stem Cell Researchers (n=166)

Focus of Tissue-Specific Stem Cell Researchers (n=166)

4.3 Cancer Stem Cells

As indicated in Figure 7, 30 researchers are working with cancer stem cells. Among those researchers who are working with several different stem cell types, one is also working with cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are an important group of rare cancer cells that have the ability to self renew, thereby maintaining and growing cancerous tissue. A list of cancer stem cell researchers can be found in Appendix 3b.

4.4 Tissue Engineering

Many of those involved in tissue engineering work with both biomaterials and stem cells. However, some are just involved in developing the biomaterials, particularly scaffolds, that are required to deliver and/or integrate stem cells into a person's body. Figure 10 gives a breakdown of the research focus of Canada's 79 tissue engineers working in the field of regenerative medicine that includes stem cells. At least 65 percent work with both scaffolds and cells, while 27 percent work just with biomaterials. The focus of each tissue engineering researcher can be found in Appendix 3b.

Figure 10: Focus of Tissue Engineering Researchers (n=79)

Focus of Tissue Engineering Researchers (n=79)

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