Archived — Canadian asset map for stem cell and regenerative medicine

Diseases/conditions targeted by stem cell and regenerative medicine researchers

Of the 416 researchers working in stem cell and regenerative medicine research, 16 are investigating social science and humanities aspects. These individuals have been excluded from the disease analysis. Thus, the data in Figures 11 to 14 refer only to 400 researchers or a subset thereof. The disease focus of each researcher is shown in Appendices 3a and 3c.

As indicated in Figure 11, the highest number of researchers (n=101) work in two or more disease areas (designated "various"), such as hematological and cardiovascular, or neurological, urological, and cutaneous conditions. This is particularly true for those who focus on tissue engineering. Some of these individuals are referred to in the subsections below.

Figure 11: Disease Focus of Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Researchers (n=400)

Disease Focus of Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Researchers (n=400)

5.1 Cancer

The most common condition targeted by Canada's researchers is cancer with 94 working in this area (Figure 11). In addition, two of the nine working in hematological diseases include cancer research, as do nine working in the "various" category. Thus, at least 105 (26 percent) investigators work in cancer research. As indicated in Figure 12, the most common focus of cancer research is hematological, particularly leukemia.

Figure 12: Number of Researchers Working on Cancer (n=105)

Number of Researchers Working on Cancer (n=105)

5.2 Neurology

The second most important disease focus is neurological. As well as the 56 individuals almost exclusively focused on such diseases, at least another 10 categorized in the "various" group also work in this area. The most common diseases being investigated by these 66 researchers (who constitute 17 percent of the 400 total number of researchers) are those of the eye, spinal cord, and multiple sclerosis (Figure 13). "Other" conditions include ALS (n=2), Parkinson's (n=2), Alzheimer's (n=2), Rett's syndrome (n=1), stroke (n=2), brain or unspecified injury (n=3), neurological development (n=1), and olfactory (n=2).

Figure 13: Number of Researchers Working on Neurological Conditions (n=66)

Number of Researchers Working on Neurological Conditions (n=66)

5.3 Musculoskeletal

Figure 11 indicates that 49 investigators are almost exclusively focused on musculoskeletal conditions, including bone, disc, ligament and cartilage formation and/or regeneration and muscular dystrophy. The targeted condition is not specified or involves multiple aspects in 32 cases. An additional eight researchers in the "various" category also work on musculoskeletal conditions, bringing the total to 57 (14 percent of the 400 total).

5.4 Cardiovascular

Of the 41 researchers working almost exclusively in cardiovascular research, 23 (56 percent) are almost entirely focused on the heart. In addition, 16 of those working in several disease areas include cardiovascular conditions among their areas of focus. Thus at least 57 (14 percent of the 400 total) researchers are working on cardiovascular diseases.

5.5 Metabolic Including Diabetes

All 12 people working on metabolic diseases as shown in Figure 11 work on diabetes. In addition, five of the researchers in the "various" category also work on diabetes. Thus 17 (4 percent of the 400 total) investigators are using stem cells or related tissue engineering to address diabetes.

5.6 Hematological

Figure 11 shows that nine researchers are working on hematological conditions other than cancer. In addition, five of the researchers working in several disease areas are targeting hematological conditions. Table 2 shows a breakdown of the hematological focus of these 14 researchers.

Table 2. Number of Researchers Working Within the Hematological Disease Area (excluding Cancer)
Type of Disease Number of Researchers
Anemia 5
Hemophilia 4
Unspecified 5

5.7 Other

Figure 14 shows all other disease areas targeted by Canada's stem cell and regenerative medicine researchers. Those receiving the most attention are immunological conditions (n=6), including allergies, asthma, immunodeficiency, and autoimmune. Five researchers are also working on better understanding embryogenesis, while eight researchers are working on aspects of male and female fertility ("reproduction"). Respiratory conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, or lung development or repair, are the focus of four researchers. All other conditions are targeted by three researchers or fewer.

Figure 14: Number of Researchers Working on "Other" Conditions (n=38)

Number of Researchers Working on "Other" Conditions (n=38)

5.8 Translational Medicine

Although the constraints involved in the preparation of this report did not allow for a detailed analysis of researchers that are driving translational medicine (moving findings from the laboratory to the clinic), many were noted during the analysis that did take place. Thirty nine of these are listed in Appendix 3d.

There is no doubt that many other researchers listed in Appendix 3a are also working to translate the basic stem cell research findings to the clinic, as the SCN indicated that its approximately 100 researchers had spent around $50 million on translational research over the past 10 years (Lyall, personal communication). Furthermore, Canada has a history of clinical innovations with stem cells. For example, clinicians at the University of Alberta published "The Edmonton Protocol" in the New England Journal of Medicine (2000), providing the first proof of principle that Type 1 Diabetes could be treated effectively by using replacement beta cells (in this case from donated pancreases).Footnote 16 This innovation has spurred researchers to explore the potential of deriving functional beta cells from stem cells. In addition, Canadian clinicians developed the "Halifax Protocol" which is now being used in international clinical trials to treat Parkinson's disease.Footnote 17 Our researchers are also developing new protocols for multiple sclerosis, graft-versus-host disease, stroke, pulmonary hypertension, neuroblastoma and other diseases that can be addressed with stem cells.

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