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Headliners: March Edition
Stem Cell Research and the Frankenstein Complex
Who: Dr. John Wagner, Director, Blood and Marrow Transplant Program; Scientific Director of Clinical Research, Stem Cell Institute, University of Minnesota
When: Thursday, March 6, 2014, 7 p.m.
Where: Continuing Education and Conference Center, University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus
The 21st century will likely see a dramatic shift in human life expectancy. And while longer lives might offer distinct benefits for individuals and society, the life-expectancy shift also would bring greater human vulnerability to a plethora of debilitating, age-related illnesses and diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, vision loss, cancer, and dementia. Certainly, leading a healthy lifestyle has a significant impact on longevity and well-being, but it is the power of stem cells and regenerative medicine that holds the greatest promise for altering the natural history of age-related diseases once they occur.
Borrowing from Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein:The Modern Prometheus, American author and biochemist Isaac Asimov coined the term the Frankenstein Complex in order to describe the human phobia of “mechanical” men or human beings who have been altered in some way (perhaps with devices or generated human tissues), but whose outward appearance remains human. (Think: android, the Six Million Dollar Man, all those wives in Stepford.)
What implications does the Frankenstein Complex have for the promise and future of regenerative medicine? Are there lessons to be learned from Shelley’s Modern Prometheus?
Join us on March 6, for an intriguing conversation with Dr. John Wagner, director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program and scientific director of Clinical Research of the Stem Cell Institute, who will discuss what is known about stem cells today, the field’s potential impact on society, and of course, the prophecy of Mary Shelley.
Dr. John Wagner is a professor of pediatrics, director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, and scientific director of Clinical Research, Stem Cell Institute, at the University of Minnesota. An internationally recognized expert in the field of stem cells and umbilical cord blood transplantation, his research focuses on the development of new cellular therapies for life-threatening diseases that do not respond well to conventional treatment.
Dr. Wagner received his M.D. at Jefferson Medical College; conducted his residency in Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine; and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Hematology-Oncology at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he remained until joining the University of Minnesota in 1991.
Since that time, he has gone on to an impressive array of medical history “firsts,” including: the first umbilical cord blood transplant for leukemia; the development of the double UCB platform (known internationally as the “Minneapolis Regimen”); the first use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for HLA matching (also known as the “savior sibling”); the first use of natural regulatory T cells from umbilical cord blood; and the first use of massively expanded blood forming stem cells using the aryl hydrocarbon receptor antagonist, StemRegenin-1. Other accomplishments include the first use of allogeneic stem cells to replace extracellular matrix proteins and treat severe forms of the rare skin disease Epidermolysis Bullosa.
As part of this work, Dr. Wagner has authored hundreds of research papers and book chapters, spoke on the clinical application of stem cells at the United Nations, and testified before the U.S. Senate on multiple occasions about the effectiveness of stem cells and regenerative medicine, and the need for a national repository of umbilical cord blood.
Named one of the “Best Doctors in America,” Dr. Wagner holds two endowed chairs at the University: the Hageboeck/Children’s Cancer Research Fund Chair in Pediatric Cancer Research and the McKnight Presidential Chair in Hematology and Oncology.