1 in 3,000
If we could unlock the mystery of how to activate stem cells, with their potential to rebuild and rejuvenate damaged tissues and organs, the key to treating many diseases might come within reach.
Colin Crist’s research into the dynamics of skeletal muscle stem cell biology could eventually lead to novel treatments for muscular dystrophies (MD), a type of chronic degenerative muscle disease. In a healthy person, skeletal muscle stem cells reproduce to repair chronic deterioration of muscle tissue. However, in a patient with MD, the stem cells are unable to keep up with this process, which causes progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles.
“My lab’s objective is to discover the mechanisms that waken dormant skeletal muscle stem cells in a healthy body where they will proliferate to repair muscle damage,” Dr. Crist explains. “The question is whether we can employ stem cell therapy to replace damaged muscle while replenishing the stem cells that contribute to their repair.”
The most common and severe form of the
disorder, called Duchenne (du-SHEN) muscular dystrophy, affects about 2 in
1,000 young boys. In the
Stem cell therapy is promising for the treatment of MD because it is known that the appropriate satellite cells can be regenerated in adulthood.
“The two key questions for us are how the stem cells go from quiescence to an active state and back again; and how they regenerate muscle,” he said. “Our findings will have wide-ranging implications for future research into all stem cell applications.”
“I am very proud to have the opportunity to join the vibrant research community at the LDI,” he said. “Though I am dedicated to basic biology, it is exciting to be so closely connected with the clinical environment at the JGH because the culmination of our efforts comes when we succeed in advancing the cause of human health.”
Dr. Crist is at the forefront of the LDI’s plans to advance further into the realm of stem cell research. Additional financial resources will bring about the opportunity to recruit more world-class researchers who will further enhance the LDI by setting it on course to contribute to breakthroughs along this promising pathway.
Stem Cell Research
Stem cell research is a relatively new field that focuses on using stem cells (unspecialized cells which, when they divide, have the potential to become any one of the major cell types found in a particular tissue or organ, such as the heart, blood or muscle) therapeutically to treat diseases and injuries and, more specifically to assist in tissue repair and rejuvenation (cell replacement therapy). Stem cells could be used to generate brand new tissue and even cure diseases for which there are currently no cure or adequate therapy. Unlocking the immense potential of adult stem cells to replace dead or damaged cells could open up a world of new possibilities to treat and cure many degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, blindness, arthritis, stroke and heart disease, spinal cord injury, as well as many muscle-wasting diseases, such as myopathy and muscular dystrophy. Cell replacement will become the cornerstone of treatment for many of the common diseases of aging. Stem cell research could also pave the way for a better understanding of the genetic basis for cell development, which may also help in preventing many of these diseases.
Establishing a LDI/JGH Stem Cell Centre and hiring stem cell researchers represent a priority in the mission of the LDI and are among the vital initiatives that will benefit significantly from the support of the JGH Foundation’s current $250 million Capital Campaign.
Establishment of the LDI/JGH Stem Cell Centre
Recruitment of world-class stem cell researchers