BC Children’s Hospital announces first of its kind stem cell research technology
New stem cell research could unlock diagnoses and cures for serious childhood diseases
The donor-funded robotized stem cell tissue culturing system could accelerate the discovery of customized therapies for patients
Vancouver, B.C., April 27, 2022 – BC Children’s Hospital Foundation today announced the launch of new stem cell research technology at BC Children’s Hospital (“BC Children’s”), which for the first time in history will combine and automate all aspects of stem cell culturing into a single piece of equipment. This technology could hold the key to more rapidly discovering new treatments or cures for severe childhood illnesses. Housed within the hospital’s Cellular and Regenerative Medicine Centre (“CRMC”), this equipment accelerates and automates stem cell development, opening the door for previously unknown diagnoses, life-saving advances, and new treatments for hard to cure diseases.
While separate pieces of equipment exist for different aspects of the stem cell culturing process, for the first time in history, all functions required to culture stem cells are all integrated into this one device and are performed by robotics technology, versus human scientists. Up until recently, the work of growing stem cells has been manually performed by researchers at BC Children’s, which meant that stem cell culturing could only be conducted for two to three patients at one time. With this new technology, the same work could be conducted for up to 85 patients simultaneously, thereby quickening the discovery of what could be causing illness in patients, and potential development of tailored treatments for them, while ensuring complete accuracy.
This technology, made possible through the generous support of Mining for Miracles, was developed by STEMCELL Technologies, an industry leader in creating stem cell products and establishing best practices that enable scientists to advance their research.
The promise of new treatments and better diagnoses lies within the technology’s ability to speed up development of stem cells. Not only can they grow into organ tissue cells that can reveal how certain diseases develop, but they can also be guided into becoming specific cells that regenerate and repair tissues that have been damaged or affected by disease. There are numerous factors that affect the quality of stem cell cultures that can be difficult to measure and account for. This is the first system that automates best practices for stem cell maintenance while adapting to the differences between patient-derived cell lines, thus drastically reducing the potential for human errors.
“Every day, our research teams are working hard to understand the genetic causes of heart arrhythmias and find the best treatment options for children at high risk of sudden cardiac arrest,” says Dr. Shubhayan Sanatani, Head, Division of Cardiology at BC Children’s Hospital. “This equipment is a true innovation, one that allows scientists and researchers to spend time focusing on finding the best and most specialized treatment options for patients facing not only congenital heart defects but other serious diseases.”
“This equipment is truly state of the art and is already transforming pediatric cardiac care,” says Malcolm Berry, President and CEO of BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. “BC Children’s is home to some of the brightest clinical minds in Canada. Combining this expertise with leading-edge technology elevates the already extraordinary work happening here in BC in pediatric and cellular regenerative medicine. This new instrument will result in improved diagnoses, better treatments and potentially, cures, ensuring a healthier future for kids in BC and across Canada.”
Already, this new instrument is being put to work at BC Children’s Hospital in helping to uncover genetic causes of heart disease in children. It is also being used in research work to determine whether insulin-producing beta cells could be created from stem cells to help children living with diabetes. The possibilities are also vast for other conditions such as rare diseases and cancer.
“With this new stem cell equipment, the team at BC Children’s Hospital has an incredible piece of technology that will ultimately improve care for kids across the province,” says Karla Mills and Jelena Puzic, Co-Chairs of Mining for Miracles. “We’re grateful for the many supportive donors within the Mining for Miracles community who are making this innovation possible, ensuring the clinical and research experts at BC Children’s have the tools and resources they need to significantly improve outcomes for sick kids.”
“The development of this custom equipment for BC Children’s demonstrates STEMCELL’s commitment to helping scientists and clinicians advance research, drive discoveries, and create better health outcomes for everyone, including children living with chronic illness,” said Dr. Allen Eaves, President and CEO, STEMCELL Technologies. “STEMCELL is honoured to support BC Children’s in its pursuit of improving therapies and interventions for childhood diseases through life-changing research. This is a truly British Columbia collaboration that will improve the lives of young patients all over the province and around the world.”
About BC Children’s Hospital Foundation
BC Children’s Hospital is the only hospital in the province devoted exclusively to the care of children and youth. It’s one of the few pediatric medical and teaching facilities in Canada with an acute care centre, research institute, mental health facility, and rehabilitation centre all in one place. BC Children’s provides specialized care, innovative therapies, and pediatric expertise for BC’s kids, including the sickest and most seriously injured. At BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, we raise funds to provide kids with excellence in healthcare by continuously driving advancements provincially and globally. The generosity of donors fuels our ability to conquer childhood diseases, prevent illness and injury, and prioritize the unique needs of kids in every aspect of their care. Follow us at @bcchf or visit bcchf.ca for more information.
About Mining for Miracles
For more than 30 years, the BC mining community has worked together through Mining for Miracles to help improve the quality of health care for children in our province. Through its support of the construction of facilities, ground-breaking research, and the acquisition of specialized medical equipment at the hospital, Mining for Miracles is helping to keep BC Children’s Hospital at the forefront of excellence in pediatric care. The industry’s donations have made an enormous positive impact on the health and well-being of children, families and communities across B.C. Donations can be made online, through employee and corporate fundraising initiatives, or by supporting the Mining for Miracles Virtual Pie Throw, which will take place over three action-packed days starting Tuesday, June 7, 2022.
About STEMCELL Technologies
STEMCELL Technologies Inc. supports life sciences research with more than 2,500 specialized reagents, tools, and services. STEMCELL offers high-quality cell culture media, cell separation technologies, instruments, accessory products, educational resources, and contract assay services that are used by scientists performing stem cell, immunology, cancer, regenerative medicine, and cellular therapy research globally. As a company of Scientists Helping Scientists, STEMCELL is dedicated to improving lives through advancing knowledge, innovation, and scientific discovery.