New Ottawa Stem Cell Research Facility will not use Embryos …For Now

By Hilary White

OTTAWA, November 17, 2006 ( - The Ottawa Health Research Institute, the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa has opened the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research to focus on regenerative medicine.

While it will not be using embryonic cells in research for the moment, the Sprott Centre, does not rule out the possibility for the future. The Centre’s Dr. Michael Rudnicki, first to be recruited and formerly a professor at Hamilton’s McMaster University, told the Ottawa Citizen that the Centre’s focus would be on curing diseases.

Dr. Rudnicki told the Ottawa Citizen that the question was a “moral” one having to do with the needs of patients with serious illnesses. “Stem cell research will transform how medicine is practised and will make a difference in the quality of life of someone who would otherwise die,” he told the Citizen.

Dr. Rudnicki led a team that first identified adult stem cells in muscle tissue that are responsible for regeneration.

Thus far the researchers at the head of the Sprott Centre’s multidisciplinary group have contributed to the discovery of adult stem cells in muscle and heart tissue. The work will focus on investigating how stem cells might be harnessed to treat neurodegenerative disorders and vision loss.

Michael Rudnicki is also the Scientific Director for the Stem Cell Network, one of the leading lobby groups that pushed for passage of Canada’s human reproductive technologies bill that passed two years ago.

During the parliamentary debates and committee hearings, the Canadian legislation was cited by bioethics experts as one of the most deceptively worded pieces of legislation in the world. Many pro-life observers and some MP’s warned that the new law would create an almost totally unregulated research environment.

Last month, noted the return to Canada of one of the world’s leading embryonic stem cell researchers who had been working in the US but who hails originally from Saskatchewan. Dr. Gordon Keller, considered one of the leading lights in the field, decided to take up the post of head of University Health Network’s McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in January crediting Canada’s more lax laws on embryo research as a main motivation for his making the move from New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The Sprott Centre has received a total of $17.4 million from various private, federal and provincial agencies including the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Innovation Trust, Genome Canada, the Ontario Genomics Institute, the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund and the Kresge Foundation.

Read related coverage:
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