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Stem Cell Experts from the University of Maryland School of Medicine Speak at Baltimore Science Center's First Stem Cell Education Day

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

 Josh Basile hopes the research of Drs. Civin (right) and Fiskum may someday help patients like himself with spinal cord injuries.

Now that federal funding restrictions on stem cell research have been loosened, what lies ahead for the field of stem cells and the next generation of scientists and doctors? Two leading stem cell researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine addressed that question for more than 50 undergraduate students — many of whom aspire to careers in stem cell science — at Stem Cell Education Day at the Maryland Science Center.


Curt I. Civin, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of the new Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Gary Fiskum, PhD, professor of anesthesiology, spoke at the free event, organized and sponsored by the Student Society for Stem Cell Research chapters at the University of Maryland, College Park and the Johns Hopkins University. Students designed the event to help other undergraduates understand the potential of the field and how expanded funding will bolster the field career opportunities for aspiring doctors and scientists.


The event was the brainchild of Josh Basile, a University of Maryland junior who suffered a spinal cord injury in a swimming accident at Bethany Beach, Del., in 2004. Josh, a quadriplegic, has spent the five years since his accident battling for better treatments. A key part of that battle, Josh believes, is advocating for the field of stem cell research so doctors can better help patients with devastating spinal cord injuries like his own.


“Stem cell therapies one day could make all the difference for paralyzed patients like me,” says Josh. “I want my fellow students who dream of being doctors and scientists to understand the potential of stem cells, and how increases in federal funding will impact the future of science and medicine. Getting the next generation of researchers excited about the field is critical to its success and to finding a cure for those of us who dream of walking again.”


Dr. Civin is known for discovering a way to isolate stem cells from other cells in the blood in 1984. He and Dr. Fiskum spoke on the future of stem cell research and what obstacles must be overcome before the promise of stem cells can be realized. "One of the hopes I had was that all the controversy about stem cell research would generate the heightened education, interest and knowledge of the general public in scientific research as a whole," said Dr. Civin. "And now this is happening."


After the doctors' presentations, the students explored the new stem cell exhibit at the Maryland Science Center, called “Cells — The Universe Inside Us.” Dr. Civin was a scientific advisor on that exhibit, as was Miriam Blitzer, PhD, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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