Public Release: 

Regenerative Medicine Symposium set for April 24 at GRU

Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Scientists and physicians from the region interested in regenerative and reparative medicine techniques, such as helping aging stem cells stay focused on making strong bone, will meet in Augusta April 24 to hear updates from leaders in the field and strategize on how to move more research advances to patients.

The daylong Regenerative Medicine and Cellular Therapy Research Symposium, sponsored by the Georgia Regents University Institute for Regenerative and Reparative Medicine, begins at 8 a.m. in Room EC 1210 of the GRU Health Sciences Building.

"We think this is a terrific opportunity for basic scientists and physicians to come together and pursue more opportunities to work together to get better prevention and treatment strategies to patients," said Dr. William D. Hill, stem cell researcher and symposium organizer.

Dr. Arnold I. Caplan, Director of the Skeletal Research Center at Case Western Reserve University and a pioneer in understanding mesenchymal stem cells, which give rise to bone, cartilage, muscle, and more, will give the keynote address at 8:45 a.m. Mesenchymal stem cell therapy is under study for a variety of conditions including multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, diabetes, emphysema, and stroke.

Other keynotes include:

  • 9:40 a.m. Dr. Eben Alsberg, Director of Case Western's Stem Cell and Engineered Novel Therapeutics Laboratory, who is developing novel biomaterials and microenvironments to regenerate tissue and treat disease.

  • 10:20 a.m. Dr. Lilsa Kuhn, Associate Professor, Reconstructive Sciences Department, University of Connecticut Health Center and a faculty member in the UConn Biomedical Engineering Department, who studies orthopaedic biomaterials and drug delivery systems.

  • 11 a.m. Dr. Johnna S. Temenoff, Associate Professor, Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, who is Co-Director of the Regenerative Engineering and Medicine research center, a collaboration between Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, and Emory. Her studies include generating biomaterials that encourage stem cells to regenerate tendons/ligaments, cartilage, and bone.

  • 1:30 p.m. Dr. Steve Stice, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, Professor and Director of UGA's Regenerative Bioscience Center, and Director of the Regenerative Engineering and Medicine research center. Stice's research focus is developing innovative animal cloning and stem cell technologies.

  • 3:20 p.m. Dr. David Hess, stroke specialist and Chairman of the Department of Neurology at the Medical College of Georgia and Clinical Chair of the GRU Brain and Behavior Discovery Institute. His research interests include basic and clinical studies using adult stem cells to aid stroke recovery.

The GRU Institute for Regenerative and Reparative Medicine has a focus on evidence-based approaches to healthy aging with an orthopaedic emphasis. "As you age, the bone is more fragile and likely to fracture," Hill said. "We want to protect bone integrity before you get a fracture as well as your bone's ability to constantly repair so, if you do get a fracture, you will repair it better yourself."

Bone health is a massive and growing problem with the aging population worldwide. "What people don't need is to fall and wind up in a nursing home," said Dr. Mark Hamrick, MCG bone biologist and Research Director of the GRU institute. "This is a societal problem, a clinical problem, and a potential money problem that is going to burden the health care system if we don't find better ways to intervene."

The researchers are exploring options such as scaffolding to support improved bone repair with age as well as nutrients that impact ongoing mesenchymal stem cell health, since these stem cells, which tend to decrease in number and efficiency with age, are essential to maintaining strong bones as well as full, speedy recovery.

Dr. Carlos Isales, endocrinologist and Clinical Director of the GRU institute, is looking at certain nutrients, particularly amino acids, and how some of their metabolites produce bone damage while others prevent or repair it. Isales is Principal Investigator on a major Program Project grant from the National Institutes of Health exploring a variety of ways to keep aging mesenchymal stem cells healthy and focused on making bone. "I think the drugs we have reduce fractures, but I think there are better ways of doing that," Isales said. "We are always thinking translationally," said Hill.

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For more information and registration, visit gru.edu/institutes/regenerative/symposium.php.

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