Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D., HHMI researcher and professor at The Rockefeller University recently presented a special lecture at the University of Texas Health Science Center in san Antonio as part of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Public Education Day.
The Public Education Day is a unique meeting that brings together researchers, corporate influencers, advocates and patients together to discuss and educate the public on particular areas of knowledge in the life sciences, such as stem cells.
Dr. Fuchs explained to the more than 300 attendees, which included members of the local San Antonio community and high school students, that a stem cell is a single cell that is able to replicate or differentiate new cells in the body. This process occurs throughout life, since the human body replaces dying cells new stem cells constantly. “Were it not for stem cells, we would not be here for the long term,” she explained at the meeting.
All in all, sixteen scientists participated in a Q&A session regarding stem cells and regenerative medicine to make the issue more understandable for the public.
Erzsebet Kokovay, Ph.D., from the Health Science Center started with a question: “What are stem cells good for?” Dr. Kobovay talked about cell-replacement therapy, a cutting-edge biotechnology that involves using stem cells to substitute damaged or diseased cells in Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, spinal cord injury, burns, traumatic brain injury, blindness, baldness and bone marrow disease.
Erzsebet Kokovay added that Dr. Fuchs “made a good point when she said that we have been using stem cell-derived therapies in the clinic for a long time. We will continue to see emerging applications for stem cells.”
In addition, Dr. Pei Wang from the Health Science Center explained that her laboratory is focused on making functional beta cells able to produce insulin in the pancreas.
Through stem cells, the concept of regenerating cells found throughout the entire body, such as neurons, cartilage, skin, and bones, is now possible. Some practical topics remain to be studied and enhanced, Dr. Fuchs noted, however, giant steps are being made towards a growing amount of stem cell possibilities.
Dr. Fuchs concluded by saying that stem cell biology can teach so much about the basis of cancer as well: “Cancer basically hijacks the mechanisms that stem cells use to control their activity.” As a result, Dr. Fuchs and other stem cell experts continue to advance stem cell technology and utilize events such as Public Education Days to made the new data and concepts available to the public.