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Bench-to-bedside look at MSC research at Case Western Reserve conference in Cleveland

Case Western Reserve University

CLEVELAND--Researchers from 22 countries will come to Cleveland for a bench to bedside examination of the developing mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) from regenerative medicine and stem cell research to therapeutics in patient care. The National Center for Regenerative Medicine for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (NCRM) and founding partner Case Western Reserve University have organized the 2007 Adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine Conference, August 27-29, at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Cleveland, to highlight advances in MSC research. The conference is the first organized by the two groups on MSCs.

It leads off with Arnold Caplan, Case Western Reserve professor of biology and director of the Skeletal Research Center in the College of Arts and Sciences. In the late 1980s, science literature hinted of MSCs' existence, but it was research by Caplan - with Case collaborators Stephen Haynesworth (biology, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences), Stanton Gerson (director of NCRM and the Ireland Cancer Center) and Hillard Lazarus (director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the Ireland Cancer Center) - that led to the MSC discovery in Case labs.

When Caplan first discovered the MSCs, little was known about their potential uses, but that has changed. "MSC research is exploding and getting more recognition as the research moves into the clinic," he said. "The therapeutic field has finally caught up with the research potentials."

His discovery paved the way for a great deal of research, at Case and other institutions, to develop MSC applications.

Since MSCs were found to have regenerative properties, Caplan, Haynesworth and Gerson established Osiris Therapeutics, Inc., to take the lab research into human therapies. This company, although originally started in Cleveland, Ohio, relocated to Baltimore, Md., and has successfully become a publically traded company. Randall Mills, the CEO of Osiris, will give the concluding talk on Wednesday to provide insight into running clinical trials using MSCs to almost 300 doctors and researchers attending the conference.

"Educating researchers in methods and models in mesenchymal stem cell technology has been a priority of our key investigators Drs. Caplan and Gerson, who are part of the MSC 2007 organizing committee," said Michael Gilkey, NCMR's marketing and operations manager. "We also are establishing Cleveland in the biotechnology world as the place to be for stem cell research."

Cleveland has been a leader in regenerative medicine and stem cell applications. The multi-institutional NCRM, including Case, University Hospitals Case Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic, provides a comprehensive approach, including basic and clinical research as well as biomedical and tissue engineering, to develop new adult (non-embryonic) stem cell therapies for patients suffering from chronic and debilitating diseases including heart disease, cancer, genetic disorders and neurodegenerative diseases and injuries such as multiple sclerosis. Currently, NCRM has more than 27 ongoing clinical trials using adult stem cells and provides a comprehensive approach to developing therapies for patients suffering from chronic and debilitating diseases.

Caplan stated that Case Western Reserve and Cleveland health care institutions have done more protocols in MSC clinical research than other cities. Currently Osiris Therapeutic has clinical trials for MSC use in regenerating tissue and repairing the body injuries from cancer, Crohn's disease, heart attacks and cartilage damage.

MSC research by Caplan and colleagues has focused on ways in which these cells can be used to restore and repair bone and cartilage. His most recent discovery was a method in which bone marrow cells were grown on three-dimensional scaffolds made of a substance called hyaluronon, which is found naturally in the body. Hyaluronon acts as a lubricant for joints, absorbing the impact caused by everyday movements. Hyaluronon also makes cartilage more elastic. Signals from hyaluronon trigger MSC to migrate to specific tissue. The results of the most recent research indicates great potential for treating musculoskeletal conditions such as fractures or bone loss.


Anthony Atala, M.D., Mark Pittenger, Ph.D., Paolo Bianco, M.D., Marc Hedrick, M.D., and Catherine Verfaille, M.D., are scientists who will be participating at MSC 2007. Although they all have different research specialties, their collective work focuses on ways in which adult-derived stem cells can be identified, characterized and applied to the treatment of disease. The five will lead a lunch discussion, "Terminology for Adult-Derived Stem Cells," on Tuesday, August 28. In addition, each researcher will give a talk during the conference.

Atala's, Pittenger's, and Verfaillie's talks focus on the identification of MSCs, and the paradigms that are used to understand and apply them in a medical context.

Atala, professor and chair of the department of urology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, will present "Regenerative Medicine: New Approaches in Health Care for the 21st Century." The focus of his talk concerns the ways in which regenerative medicine can be used to replace the current system of organ donation and transplantation. Because the shortage of donors is increasing from year to year, transplantation is becoming less and less viable. The focus of regenerative medicine is to "construct biological substitutes that will restore and maintain normal function in diseased and injured tissues." Stem cells are a major component of regenerative medicine, and in his talk, Atala will review recent advances and applications in regenerative medicine, focusing on the field of tissue and organ failure and regeneration.

Pittenger's talk is entitled "A Paradigm for Understanding Tissue Regeneration: Origins of MSCs." The vice president of research at Osiris Therapeutics, Inc., will focus on the early research, done by Friedenstein, Haynesworth and Caplan, in discovering, classifying and harvesting cells that differentiate into MSCs and using them as a viable medium for regenerative medicine techniques. He will also discuss the possibilities for future research, in fields such as trauma, disease and aging.

Verfaillie's presentation, "Possible Mechanisms Underlying the Greater Potency of Adult Stem Cells"," highlights research done over the last five years related to culturing MSCs from bone marrow and other postnatal tissues, which she terms "multi-potent adult progenitor cells." She notes that other research groups have given these cells different terms, but notes that, despite their potency, their abilities put them in the "adult stem cells" category. Verfaillie will also point out new areas of research for multi-potent adult progenitor cells. She has been a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota since 1998 and has directed their Stem Cell Institute since 2000.

Bianco's presentation, "Self-renewing Stromal Progenitors and the Hematopoietic Microenvironment in the Human Bone Marrow: A tale of two stem cells," addresses the potential of identifying a specific cell type in human bone marrow that "would be able to transfer the hematopoietic microenvironment in vivo." He will discuss the methods he took to find these self-renewing stromal progenitors, and the results of his research. Bianco is professor of pathology within the medical school and the department of experimental medicine and pathology at the Universita' La Sapienza Roma.

Hedrick's "Adipose Tissue: A Promising Source of Cells for Cell-based Therapies" elaborates on the benefits of using adipose tissue for cell-based therapies. He notes that the use of adipose tissue is still a novel technique and focuses on the research that is being done in this area. Hedrick is a fellow at UPMC Presbyterian, specializing in craniomaxillofacial surgery and president of Cytori Therapeutics. They talk about discovering and studying new cells and tissues which have not yet received a great deal of attention in regenerative medicine research.


For more information about the NCRM, visit

Case Western Reserve University is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.

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