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Getting the facts on stem cells & diabetes

24 April 2013
In Melbourne on 16 May The possibility that stem cells could be used to treat type 1 diabetes certainly attracts a lot of attention. But what is actually involved and, importantly, how close are we to testing whether stem cells can actually deliver on the promise?

If you are in Melbourne on Thursday 16 May, join us at a FREE public forum to learn about the latest in stem cell research and type 1 diabetes. The evening will include presentations from three researchers and plenty of time for your questions to be answered.

Our first speaker, Professor Ed Stanley from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, will set the scene by providing background on the science of diabetes and discuss the potential role of stem cells. Professor Stanley is a leading stem cell researcher who over many years has investigated how to turn stem cells into insulin producing cells and developed new ways of making stem cell therapies safer. 

Next, we will hear from Dr Allan Robins, Senior Vice-President of Californian company ViaCyte, Inc. This company recently attracted significant funding from JDRF International and the Californian Institute for Regenerative Medicine to accelerate the development of their technology. By turning embryonic stem cells into early pancreatic cells, and then enclosing the cells in a permeable cassette that can be inserted under the skin, ViaCyte hoped that this device will act like an artificial pancreas, responding to blood glucose levels while being protected from attack by the immune system. With US clinical trials scheduled to start in 2014, this is a unique opportunity to hear more from the company developing the technology.

We are also delighted that Associate Professor Maria Craig from the Children’s Hospital at Westmead will be able to tell us more about the Cord blood Reinfusion in Diabetes (CoRD) Pilot Study that she is leading. Aimed at children who have a close relative with type 1 diabetes, and who have their cord blood stored in a private cord blood bank, the study will assess whether cells found in cord blood can actually stop immune destruction in the pancreas and protect the child from developing the disease. The CoRD study will require 400 – 600 participants for screening, with at least 20 participants proceeding to cord blood reinfusion. This study is expected to take five years to complete.

The forum will be held at the Melbourne Brain Centre, University of Melbourne and is hosted by Stem Cells Australia and the Bio21 Cluster with sponsorship generously provided by the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

All welcome – just bring your questions and please register at http://bio21cluster.org.au/public-forum/ by 13 May.

Both Dr Robins and Associate Professor Craig are invited speakers at the Therapeutic Potential of Stem Cells: Pitfalls & Promises scientific symposium to be held at The University of Melbourne on 16 & 17 May.