04 Jun Stem cell scientist Svendsen leaving UW-Madison
Clive N. Svendsen, a highly regarded stem cell researcher, has been named director of the new Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute, and will start his new position on Dec. 1, 2009.
Currently a professor of neurology and anatomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and joint leader of the widely-respected Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center at the University of Wisconsin, Svendsen’s groundbreaking research focuses on both modeling and treating neurodegenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Parkinson’s disease using a combination of stem cells and powerful growth factors.
Under Svendsen’s direction, the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute will bring together basic scientists with specialist clinicians, physician scientists and translational scientists across multiple medical specialties to translate fundamental stem cell studies to therapeutic regenerative medicine. At the heart of the Institute will be a specialized core facility for the production of pluripotent stem cells (capable of making all tissues in the human body) from adult human skin biopsies.
Svendsen was attracted to Cedars-Sinai because of their strong commitment to translational medicine. He also admires both the faculty and the facility and also the medical center’s willingness and ability to move research from the lab to the patient as quickly as possible. “Stem cell therapies offer new hope to patients with many life-threatening diseases, but require the integration of both basic and clinical scientists along with a careful balance of hype and hope in this very emotive field. We plan to recruit some of the best researchers to join with the current Cedars-Sinai physicians and scientists to ensure that Cedars-Sinai will be at the forefront of this endeavor,” said Svendsen.
Although the Regenerative Medicine Institute is new, in recent years Cedars-Sinai scientists have already initiated basic and clinical experimental studies involving adult stem cells in areas such as cardiology and neurosurgery, liver disease and connective tissue dysfunctions.
Svendsen, a native of Sidmouth, England, has had dozens of his research studies published in prestigious medical journals including Science and Nature and is at the forefront of the national effort to translate stem cell science to the betterment of patients. He has also been influenced by his friend, collaborator and renowned stem cell biologist James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin.
“When Jamie Thomson showed that you could take adult human skin cells and reprogram them back to an embryonic state, it changed the way I thought about biology” Svendsen said. The Svendsen and Thomson laboratories went on to generate and characterize these induced pluripotent stem cells from a child with spinal muscular atrophy, a severe neurological disorder that causes paralysis by a child’s first birthday due to a loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord. “We were amazed to see that the cells could generate motor neurons that underwent the same disease process seen in the babies” Svendsen said. “We can now replay the disease over and over again in the culture dish and begin to ask questions about how this happens, and perhaps find drugs to prevent it. It’s revolutionary science.” In addition to his translational work, Svendsen hopes to use this technique in collaboration with Cedars-Sinai faculty to model many other disorders of the human body.
Svendsen has said that he will look back at his time in Wisconsin with fond memories. “It has been an amazing experience – – surrounded by really great scientists and clinicians working at the cutting edge of stem cell biology. I will miss all of my friends, but hope to keep strong ties with my many colleagues through continued collaborations with the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute.”