Stem cell study ‘should aim at innovation in treatment’

By Bonnie James Deputy News Editor The stem cell and regenerative therapy programme, constituting a major part of research at Qatar Cardiovascular Research Centre (QCRC), has important clinical and scientific implications, co-chairman Prof Sir Magdi Yacoub has said. He was giving a keynote presentation at the Qatar International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy 2012, which concluded on Thursday at Qatar National Convention Centre. Myocardium (the muscular tissue of the heart) regeneration and tissue engineering and valves tissue engineering are among the focal areas at QCRC, which aims to establish in Qatar an internationally competitive centre of excellence for cardio-vascular research. QCRC, which has a heart muscle lab and a tissue engineering, regeneration lab, works with a mission to maintain a translational focus, relevant to the development of health policy and practice, and provide opportunities for capacity building, professional development and research collaborations in Qatar. It is also meant to provide opportunities for biotechnology development in Qatar and contribute to cardio-vascular health in the developing world through improved knowledge base, capacity building and development of appropriate tools and strategies focused on poorer countries. Cardio-vascular diseases (CVDs) kill 17mn people per year globally and there is particularly high incidence in the Middle East and Gulf region, Prof Yacoub pointed out. The incidence of CVDs is three times more in the region than in the UK, the US or Europe. Smoking, one of the main reasons for CVDs, is also increasing in the eastern Mediterranean region compared to the Americas. There is a significant lack of clinical, epidemiological and genetic data from this region and an overwhelming need exists to better understand epidemiology and disease mechanisms of CVDs. Research should then be linked to development of appropriate tools and strategies to strengthen prevention, diagnosis and treatment, he said. Pointing out that heart transplant options for those suffering from severe heart failure are becoming increasingly rare, Prof Yacoub observed that the number of donor hearts is going down globally. While we used to do up to 130 heart transplants a year at Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals in the UK in the late 80s, now we would be lucky to do 20, he said while emphasising the need to focus more on the reversibility of heart failure. Few recent drug trials have shown evidence of minor reverse remodelling and there have been near-complete reversal of almost every change in myocardium in some patients. There are unprecedented opportunities to unravel the secrets of heart failure at cellular and molecular levels, he stressed.

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Stem cell study ‘should aim at innovation in treatment’

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