Stem Cell Research

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Monday Marks Stem Cell Awareness Day

October 08, 2018 - 8:07 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Monday is Stem Cell Awareness Day.

Dr. Todd Evans of Weill Cornell Medicine has been testing drugs for colon cancer thanks to stem cell research. He told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott it would be beneficial for everyone to know how much stem cell research is revolutionizing biomedical research generally.

“One thing that’s really wonderful about stem cells and stem cell research is that you can really use these as tools to study and hopefully treat a wide variety of diseases – anything from neurogenerative disorders to heart diseases and heart failure; really across the board,” Evans said. “So stem cell research is really impacting science and medicine across the board. It’s a very exciting time.”

Stem cell research can be a hot-button issue, particularly given the use of embryos. But Evans emphasized that it can be beneficial across the board.

“The thing to realize is that although we do have our own stem cells, and actually, some people may not realize that stem cells have been used to cure diseases particularly of the blood system – diseases like leukemia – really since the 1960s, although the research makes that better and better and better,” Evans said. “But for many of our organs, it’s not so easy to obtain and to use those cells for therapies. However, we can actually generate stem cells now in the field from individual patients.”

For example, a blood cell can be taken and used to study a particular disease, and hopefully develop drugs or therapies specific for a given patient.

“So this is really embarking on what we call precision medicine or patient-specific medicine. And you can really only do that using stem cells,” Evans said.

Evans said what is being done with stem cells is “revolutionary.”

 “I have to say that right now, although stem cells could be used to generate cells for cellular therapies to replace damaged tissue, right now what already is ongoing is the ability to generate the tissues that are involved in that disease, such as colon cancer or diabetes or heart disease, and then screen and try to find the drugs that are functional for the cells that are derived from that specific patient,” he said.