The Stem Cell Program at Children's launches new website to rally support for stem cell research
May 10, 2010
Are stem cells effectively used in human therapies today? Does the ability to reprogram adult stem cells mean we no longer need embryonic stem cell research? Is it true that the stem cells produced through genetic reprogramming may become cancerous? Embryonic stem cells are said to have so much promise, but when will they lead to cures?
These questions are just some of those mostly frequently asked by a confused public searching for answers, according to the doctors and researchers at the world-renowned Stem Cell Program at Children's Hospital Boston-and they are among the primary reasons for launching today a new website: stemcell.childrenshospital.org
The pediatric teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital Boston has long been a leader in stem cell research, contributing many breakthroughs to the field. Now, in addition to its commitment to advancing the science, the Stem Cell Program at Children's seeks to engage the public in a national discussion on the crucial need to support stem cell research, still a hot-button topic for some. By creating the new website, Children's aims to fill a void and become the go-to resource for reliable and accessible information on the often misconstrued field of stem cell research. The ultimate goal: to bring stem cell-based therapies to the clinic within a matter of years in order to usher in a new era of cost effective healing that is non-invasive to patients.
"When it comes to stem cells, there is still a high level of misunderstanding or confusion on the part of the general public," said Dr. Leonard Zon, Director of the Stem Cell Program at Children's Hospital Boston. "Our goal with this site is to be a reliable source of stem cell-related information and to encourage people to become vested in the science and actively involved in furthering what we consider to be the most exciting and promising field of medical research."
Designed to be a consumer-friendly resource, the new site seeks to explain the science in readily understandable terms, to correct misperceptions, and to illuminate the power and value of different types of stem cells to create potential cures for a range of diseases--including heart disease, diabetes, leukemia and other cancers, sickle cell anemia,neurologic disorders, such as Parkinson's and Huntington's, muscular disorders, such as muscular dystrophy, and much more.
"The goal of our research is one day to be able to cure what is now incurable," said Dr. George Daley, Director of Stem Cell Transplantation at Children's Hospital Boston. "With the new stem cell website and social media applications, those of us on the front lines can communicate directly with the public and those who could benefit from these potential therapies-and we can convey what progress is being made, what the ongoing challenges are, and what can be done to help fund research and find cures."
To further engage the public, the Children's Hospital Boston Stem Cell Program is taking an interactive approach to promote a national conversation on stem cells through an ambitious social media presence, which will be facilitated by these other digital interfaces newly created and hosted by the Stem Cell Program:
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/BostonStemCell
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/BostonStemCell
Twitter: @BostonStemCell http://www.twitter.com/BostonStemCell
In terms of website content, the visually captivating site features a series of 3-D animated "stem cell 101" videos, hosted by Dr. Zon and Dr. Daley, which address some of the most frequently asked questions about stem cells and give viewers a visual tutorial. Other areas on the site provide a history of the science of stem cells and the policies impacting research, a primer on the ethical debates surrounding stem cell research, a newsroom featuring updates on the latest breakthroughs in the field, and more.
The new website will also give people a chance to see the human face of stem cell science. For instance, in an inspiring video, the parents of young Andy Trevino talk about turning to Children's Hospital Boston for life-saving stem cell treatment to save their son. They speak candidly about using in-vitro fertilization to conceive a "savior sibling," a sister who would be a donor-match for a blood stem cell transplant. Compelling videos show Andy's transformation from a terminally-ill toddler to the happy, healthy and active child he is today, thanks to healthy stem cells harvested from the cord blood of his little sister Sofia, which were successfully transplanted to Andy. The Trevinos also talk about their decision to donate rather than discard the leftover embryos from the IVF process to help further the research in Dr. Daley's lab.
Visitors will also meet Barry Siegel, an incredibly dynamic personality and avid cycling enthusiast in his 50s who was struck by a car while bike riding five summers ago--an accident that rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Siegel has donated his own cells and has personally raised considerable funds to promote stem cell research that could one day benefit those suffering from spinal cord injuries. Other patient stories will also be added to the website over time--including that of a gifted teenaged sickle-cell anemia patient who spent the summer working in Dr. Daley's lab on research that could one day yield a cure for his own painful illness.
State of Research
In the "Research on Diseases" section of the website, patients and family members interested in finding out about the research status on specific diseases can learn about the latest progress or obstacles with regard to stem cell research targeting diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer to diabetes, and more. They can also find out ways to become involved and how individuals can help. This area of the site also cautions patients about the dangers of pursuing untested experimental stem cell treatments that could do more harm than good, and offers valuable information on guidelines and how to distinguish reputable research by accredited institutions from bogus treatments or medical tourism scams.
A Unique Plan
The new website also spells out the unique plan for reaching human trials. The Stem Cell Program at Children's Hospital has teamed up some of the best minds in science and medicine with some of the most influential leaders in business to move the field forward. "Through my experience in business and sports, I've learned that a well thought out game plan provides a much greater opportunity to execute and win," said Jonathan Kraft, President of The Kraft Group and the New England Patriots, who chairs the stem cell task force at Children's with his wife, Patti. "We are right on the cusp of developing cost-effective steam cell therapies, and the Children's Stem Cell Program has the right plan to take us from research to treatment," he said. "This new website is a way to educate and galvanize business leaders, policy makers, the media, and individuals to help America lead the way in developing real therapies for millions of patients around the world."
Children's Hospital Boston is home to the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and 13 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is a 397-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Children's also is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information about the hospital and its research visit: www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom.
George Daley, MD, PhD
Leonard Zon, MD