Federal funding — such as that from the National Institutes of Health — for early-stage, highly innovative research is fiercely competitive, which can prevent scientists from pursuing promising new studies. Mayo Clinic's generous benefactors often fund research that the government and others have not.
In recent years, philanthropic support has helped Mayo Clinic assemble a cadre of researchers focused on novel stem cell-based therapies for chronic diseases. This pioneering work now takes place in the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Mayo Clinic.
"Philanthropy provided vital resources for our team to engineer and design more efficient stem cells for heart repair. To create these cells, we start with ordinary cell types, such as fibroblasts, that are readily available in our skin," says Timothy J. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic physician and scientist whose research focuses on regenerative medicine.
"Successful stem cell treatment strategies for the heart may help alleviate the ever-growing, but currently unmet, need for heart transplantation," adds Dr. Nelson.
In addition to Dr. Nelson's work with bioengineered stem cells — known to scientists as induced pluripotent stem cells — other Mayo researchers are studying how stem cells can be "instructed" to repair damaged tissues and organs.
Landmark work by Mayo Clinic researchers Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., and Atta Behfar, M.D., Ph.D., shows that adult stem cells can be programmed to repair diseased heart tissue, such as that left behind after a heart attack.
Mayo physicians and researchers believe that regenerative medicine research will yield fresh solutions for diseases — from heart disease to Alzheimer's disease to diabetes — that today can be managed, but not completely treated.
Read more about regenerative medicine at Mayo Clinic.
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