Our Educational Mission
An important aspect of TIF’s mission is to educate the public about stem cell science. Stem cells are powerful because of their versatility. Their ability to differentiate into other cell types, to repair and modify injured and diseased tissue and be manufactured and delivered as clinical products holds the promise for developing treatments and cures for a wide range of conditions. While the translation of stem cell science is still in its relative infancy compared to, for instance, the medical device sector, research and development in this field has seen explosive growth in recent years. Currently, public and private research facilities, as well as the health care sector as a whole, are grappling with how to adequately support and benefit from stem cell research.
One hurdle to generating that support is that relatively few people outside of the stem cell research community appreciate the magnitude of the advances made in the last decade and even fewer understand how those advancements are poised to fundamentally alter the practice of medicine over the next several years. For example, outside of the research community few people are aware of the therapeutic promise of induced pluripotent stem cells (or iPSCs). iPSCs are pluripotent stem cells derived from adult cells as opposed to embryonic stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells are powerful. They exist in an undifferentiated state and can be transformed into any type of cell in the human body (e.g., neurons, heart, pancreatic and liver cells). Moreover, unlike embryonic pluripotent stem cells, iPSCs are generated from adult donor cells, such as from skin cells taken from an individual’s arm. Once those cells are “induced” to return to a “pluripotent” state they can be used to develop treatments and therapies for those same individuals. There are obvious advantages to such an approach, not the least of which is that iPSCs derived from an individual to create donor specific therapies for that same individual are less likely to suffer from immune rejections.
These and other advancements, such as in the fields of gene editing, stem cell-related manufacturing and clinical delivery of stem cell treatments are poorly understood by the population at large. Through its educational efforts and through its sustained public engagement with business and community leaders, TIF seeks to change that.