World premiere in stem cell research in Montreal

    Researchers at IRIC succeed in multiplying blood cells in the lab,
    accelerating the development of novel treatments for patients waiting for
    a bone marrow transplant.

    MONTREAL, April 16 /CNW Telbec/ - A team from the Institute for Research
in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) at Université de Montréal has succeeded in
producing a large quantity of laboratory stem cells from a small number of
blood stem cells obtained from bone marrow. The multidisciplinary team,
directed by Dr. Guy Sauvageau, thus took a giant step towards the development
of a revolutionary treatment based on these stem cells. This worldwide first
will advance stem cell research and could have major implications in several
fields for which no treatment currently exists.
    Every year in North America, nearly 4,000 people wait in vain for a bone
marrow transplant due to the lack of compatible donors. It is known that a
bone marrow stem cell transplant can reconstitute the recipient's bone marrow.
The main difficulty is to obtain a sufficient number of compatible stem cells.
Thanks to Dr. Sauvageau and his team, these patients will be able to obtain
new bone marrow within the next few years. "It could be possible to envision
transplants for all adults from existing umbilical cord blood banks. The stem
cell content of these blood banks is currently too limited for large-scale use
in adults," Dr. Sauvageau affirmed.

    Organ transplants without side effects: the medicine of the future?

    Currently, transplant recipients are condemned to take medications
against rejection of the transplanted organ and suffer the side effects for
the rest of their lives. However, "mouse studies exist, showing that bone
marrow stem cells can prevent the rejection typically directed against solid
organs," Dr. Sauvageau said.
    Rejection occurs because the immune system cells manufactured by bone
marrow attack the transplanted organ as if it were an invader. By
extrapolation from laboratory studies, it is very likely that transplanting
hematopoietic stem cells collected from the organ donor and developed in the
laboratory could avoid rejection of this organ. This is why it is important to
have large quantities of hematopoietic stem cells, so that compatible stem
cells can be matched with the organ to be transplanted.

    Using proteins to multiply stem cells

    To produce large quantities of hematopoietic stem cells in the
laboratory, Dr. Sauvageau's team identified 10 proteins out of 700 candidates.
These 10 proteins are naturally present in hematopoietic stem cells and
researchers can use each of them to force these cells to multiply in the
laboratory. "The next step is to verify whether this also works in humans.
Everything is already in place," Guy Sauvageau pointed out. These tests will
be conducted at Montreal's Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, one of the leading
centres in Canada where stem cell transplants are performed. "If only one of
the ten proteins allows hematopoietic stem cells to be multiplied in humans,
we will be able to obtain the quantities of cells necessary to perform
transplants. It will then be possible to say "mission accomplished"."
    Researchers around the world are currently trying to harness the
regenerative power of other types of stem cells to treat diseases such as
Alzheimer's or diabetes. IRIC's research could also help them achieve their
    The work of Dr. Sauvageau's team has been funded by the Canadian
Institutes of Health Research and the findings are being published today in
the prestigious scientific journal Cell.

    The IRIC, a research centre that seeks to accelerate discoveries of new
    anticancer therapies

    Established in 2003 at the Université de Montréal, IRIC is the first
Systems Biology Centre in Canada dedicated to finding novel cancer
therapeutics and to training tomorrow's scientists. Its team of world-class
scientists, professionals and students has the most important technological
infrastructure in North America at its disposal. Designated a Centre of
Excellence in Commercialization and Research, its subsidiary, IRICoR, allows
IRIC to build strong partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry and to
accelerate the commercialization of its discoveries. For more information,
please visit our website at

For further information:

For further information: Sophie Langlois, Director, Media Relations,
Université de Montréal, (514) 343-7704,; Carolyne
Lord, Communications Officer, IRIC, (514) 343-7282,

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