At UHN, we strive to deliver Compassionate Care & Caring. Learn more about the services and supports that are available to you throughout your journey.
Our UHN programs and services are among the most advanced in the world. We have grouped our physicians,
staff, services and resources into 10 medical programs to meet the needs of our patients and help us make
the most of our resources.
At the heart of everything we do at UHN are our Healthcare Professionals. Refer a patient to one of our 12 medical programs. Learn more about the resources and opportunities available for professional growth.
University Health Network has grown to be one of the largest research and teaching hospital networks in Canada - pioneers in improving the lives of patients. Our long history of health professions education at Toronto General, Toronto Western, Princess Margaret and Toronto Rehab hospitals has consistently advanced the science of education.
University Health Network is a health care and medical research organization in
Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The scope of research and complexity of cases at UHN has made us a national and international
source for discovery, education and patient care.
Being touched by illness affects us in different ways. Many people want to give back to the community
and help others. At UHN, we welcome your contribution and offer different ways you can help so you can find one that suits you.
The Newsroom is the source for media looking for information about UHN or trying to connect with one
of our experts for an interview. It's also the place to find UHN media policies and catch up on our news stories, videos, media releases,
podcasts and more.
For the first time since stem cells were discovered here 50 years ago, scientists have isolated a human blood stem cell in its purest form – as a single stem cell capable of regenerating the entire blood system. This breakthrough opens the door to harnessing the power of these life-producing cells to treat cancer and other debilitating diseases more effectively. The research is published today in Science.
"This discovery means we now have an increasingly detailed road map of the human blood development system including the much sought after stem cell," says principal investigator John Dick, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology and is a Senior Scientist at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and the Ontario Cancer Institute, University Health Network (UHN).
"We have isolated a single cell that makes all arms of the blood system, which is key to maximizing the potential power of stem cells for use in more clinical applications. Stem cells are so rare that this is a little like finding a needle in a haystack."
Dr. Dick, who pioneered the field of cancer stem cells with previous discoveries in human leukemia and colon cancer, also developed a way to replicate the entire human leukemia disease process using genetically engineered mice. As well as being a Senior Scientist at UHN's Princess Margaret and Toronto General Hospitals, he is a Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, and Director of the Cancer Stem Cell Program at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.
Dr. Dick works out of UHN's Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI) – the venerable institution where stem-cell science began in 1961 with the original discovery of Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch – and McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine with the next generation of stem-cell scientists focused on developing better and more effective treatments for heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and spinal cord injury.
The 1961 Till and McCulloch discovery quickly led to using stem cells for bone marrow transplantation in leukemia patients, the most successful clinical application so far in what is now known as regenerative medicine and a therapy that is used to treat thousands of patients annually around the world.
"Ever since stem-cell science began," says Dr. Dick, "scientists have been searching for the elusive mother lode – the single, pure stem cell that could be controlled and expanded in culture prior to transplantation into patients. Recently scientists have begun to harness the stem cells found in the umbilical cord blood; however, for many patients a single donor sample is not large enough to use. These new findings are a major step to generate sufficient quantities of stem cells to enable greater clinical use and thus move closer to realizing the promise of regenerative medicine for patients."
Along the way, scientists have indeed mapped many vital signposts regarding stem-cell subsets and specialization. Last year, Dr Dick's team reported isolating the more specialized progenitor cells that lie downstream of the stem cell. The discovery published today was enabled by hi-tech flow cytometry technology: a process that rapidly sorts, sifts and purifies millions of blood cells into meaningful bins for scientific analysis. Now, stem-cell scientists can start mapping the molecular switches that guide how "normal" stem cells behave and endure, and also characterize the core properties that distinguish them from all other blood cell types.
This discovery is the one Dr. Dick has personally been seeking ever since 1988 when he developed the first means of studying human blood stem cells by transplanting them into immune-deficient mice, research that was also published inScience. "Back then, our goal was to define single human stem cells. With advances made in technology, twenty-three years later, we have."
The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the Canadian Cancer Society, the Terry Fox Foundation, Genome Canada through the Ontario Genomics Institute, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, a Canada Research Chair, OCI's Campbell Family Institute for Cancer Research, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, as well as student grants from CIHR, the Swiss National Science Foundation and Roche. Dr. Dick's research is also supported by the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.
For more information about the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and the stem-cell research hub in Toronto, go to http://www.joinstemcellcity.com/
For the full release, please click here.