CureCP.org recently interviewed Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg for their monthly e-newsletter. The following is transcript of their interview.
Dr. Kurtzberg, Duke Medical physician and NIH investigator, is an internationally renowned expert in pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric blood and marrow transplantation, umbilical cord blood banking and transplantation, and novel applications of cord blood in the emerging fields of cellular therapies and regenerative medicine.
Can you briefly explain regenerative medicine for the layperson?
Regenerative Medicine refers to a new and emerging field in medicine where cells and cell-derived products are used to repair organs and tissues damaged by diseases and or injuries.
How is regenerative medicine being applied currently?
Currently, regenerative medicine is largely an experimental field. There are hundreds of clinical trials ongoing in the USA (see www.clinicaltrials.gov) and abroad, using cells derived from bone marrow, fat, or birthing tissues (cord blood, placental tissue) to study whether they are safe and effective in treating patients with cerebral palsy, stroke, hearing loss, heart failure, myocardial infarction, autism, type I diabetes, traumatic brain injury, joint disease, and other diseases.
How specifically can it work for people with CP?
Selective cord blood cells have unique properties, that suppress inflammation (a common response to tissue injury), promote new brain connections through stimulation of proliferation of oligodendrocytes and neurons, protect neurons from hypoxic (low oxygen) injury, and clean up debris from dying cells in an area of injury. In CP, all of these effects can help generate new motor connections to increase function.
Cure CP is proud to help fund your upcoming non-related donor CP cord blood trial. Can you briefly describe your study?
We have previously shown that intravenous infusion of autologous (a child’s own) cord blood cells, is safe and, when administered at a sufficient dose, improves motor function in children with CP. Because we know that many children with CP will not have their own cord blood banked, we are working to find ways to safely use cord blood from siblings (when available) or unrelated donors. Cure CP is supporting both the preclinical work (IND enabling studies) and the early phases of clinical trials in children with CP who will be infused with donor cord blood.
What are your thoughts on the future of regenerative medicine and potential benefits?
I think that the field of regenerative medicine will lead to the most important new therapies and medical breakthroughs over the next decade.
CureCP.org is a non-profit organization (501c3) committed to funding Cerebral Palsy research. Our mission is simple: to undertake and support initiatives at research institutions that focus on developing new therapeutic methodologies for the treatment of CP.