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UGA to host stem cell therapies for spinal cord injuries workshop
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Following President Barack Obama's decision to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, medical and scientific experts will converge at the University of Georgia to discuss how recent advances in stem cell research can be turned into cures for spinal cord injuries.

The second Spinal Cord Workshop, a program of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation, will be held on Saturday, April 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences in Athens, Ga.

Every year close to 11,000 people sustain spinal cord injuries in the United States, while more than 200,000 Americans live each day with a disability caused by them.

“Because spinal cord injury usually occurs in otherwise healthy, young adults, it is an especially attractive candidate for a cure for stem cell therapy,” said Ann Kiessling, director of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation. “The big question is whether a ‘moon shot’ approach will produce a cure, or if there is still too much basic science yet unknown.”

The workshop is hosted by UGA’s Regenerative Bioscience Center. Additional support is provided by the UGA Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta and Millipore, Inc.

“The University of Georgia is fortunate to team up with the Bedford Foundation to host these leading experts in spinal cord therapies to discuss and develop new paths forward for spinal cord injuries,” said Steven Stice, director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center and a UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences professor. “In addition, Georgia’s recent legislation aimed at restricting stem cell research makes this workshop an especially timely one.”

Created in 1996, the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation is a Massachusetts-based public charity and biomedical institute conducts stem cell and related research for diseases and conditions that currently have no cure.

The Regenerative Bioscience Center brings UGA’s expertise, resources and accomplishments in human embryonic stem cell research under one umbrella, while contributing to the university’s educational and outreach missions with student research experiences and public lectures, symposia and workshops.

The event serves as a follow-up to the inaugural Spinal Cord Workshop held at UGA in March 2008. For more information, go to the Web site www.spinalcordworkshop.org.

(Rebecca Ayer is an information specialist with the University of Georgia Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute.)

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