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NHLBI to Convene Symposium on Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine

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With advancements in the field of stem cell research accelerating, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will hold its third Symposium on Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine to review the latest findings in the field and examine future directions. The symposium will include a discussion on ways to move promising findings in the laboratory into clinical trials, in hopes of speeding stem cell-related treatments to patients.

The event will be held Oct. 14 -15 at the Natcher Conference Center on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md.

"This symposium will help us move forward to spur new scientific efforts that will advance the field of cardiovascular stem cell research," said NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., who will deliver the keynote address on the NHLBI Roadmap for stem cell research." "With more than 16 million Americans living with damage to heart muscles or blood vessels due to heart attacks, this area of research holds great promise to improve lives."

Nabel noted that the theme of the symposium coincides with the NHLBI's recent funding of stem cell research projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The NHLBI has made stem cell research a Signature Project under the Recovery Act and is putting a priority on funding research that could lead to the development of regenerative treatment for heart, lung, and blood diseases, added Nabel.

Some symposium sessions will focus on cardiac development and how epithelial cells transform into mesenchymal cells, a process which is related to organ development and some fibrotic diseases. Another session will review recent advances, and future potential, for embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that could be used for cell therapy in the heart. IPS cells are artificially derived stem cells that can give rise to any fetal or adult cell type. The symposium will also feature a series of talks related to the NHLBI's newly launched Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium, whose 18 teams of scientists are developing the field of stem and progenitor cell tools and therapies.

Stem cell experts from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden are scheduled to speak, and the symposium will also include a number of poster sessions. Among the highlights of the scheduled list of speakers:

• George Q. Daley, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School/Children's Hospital of Boston. "Modeling Blood Disease with iPS Cells. Wednesday, Oct. 14, 8:35 a.m. Dr. Daley will discuss ways to use induced pluripotent stem cells to model blood disease. This line of research could provide new targets for drug therapy.

• Bernhard Kuhn, M.D., Harvard Medical School/Children's Hospital of Boston, "Stimulating Myocardial Regeneration with Cardiomyocyte Proliferation Factors." Thursday, Oct. 15, 11 a.m. Dr. Kuhn will discuss ways to recruit existing heart tissue into producing new cells, which could help repair heart damage following heart attack or stroke.

• Jonas Frisen, M.D., Ph.D., Karolinska Institute, Sweden, "Cardiomyocyte Renewal in Humans." Thursday, Oct. 15, 11:20 a.m. Dr. Frisen will discuss his work using residual atmospheric radiation remaining from aboveground atomic bomb testing in the 1960s from sites around the world to determine the age of cardiomyocytes, or cardiac muscle cells, in humans. Until now, it has been difficult to determine the age of cells in the heart, so there was little information about whether new tissue was being generated in the heart. Dr. Frisen's research suggests that a tiny fraction of tissue cells within the heart are new cardiomyocytes, a finding which could lead to new ways to encourage more such tissue growth.