Every year, the second Wednesday in October is set aside as Stem Cell Awareness Day, a time to celebrate the progress being made in the field and to remind us of the challenges that lie ahead.
While the event began here in California in 2008, with then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger highlighting the work of CIRM, saying: ”The discoveries being made today in our Golden State will have a great impact on many around the world for generations to come.” It has since grown to become a global event.
Here in California, for example, UC Davis and the University of Southern California (USC) both held events to mark the day.
At UC Davis Jan Nolta, PhD., the Director of the Stem Cell Program, introduced a series of speakers who highlighted the terrific work being done at the university. Peter Belafsky talked about using stem cells to repair damaged trachea and to help people who are experiencing voice or swallowing disorders. Mark Lee highlighted the progress being made in using stem cells to repair hard-to-heal broken bones. Aijun Wang focused on some really exciting work that could one day lead to a therapy for spina bifida (including some ridiculously cute video of English bulldogs who are able to walk again because of this therapy.)
USC hosted 100 local high school students for a panel presentation and discussion about careers in stem cell research. The panel featured four scientists talking about their experience, why the students should think about a career in science and how to go about planning one. USC put together a terrific video of the researchers talking about their experiences, something that can help any student around the US consider becoming part of the future of stem cell research.
Similar events were held in other institutions around California. But the celebration wasn’t limited to the Golden State. At the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, Texas, they held an event to talk to the public about the clinical trials they are supporting using stem cells to help people suffering from heart failure or other heart-related issues.
Finally, the UK-based RegMedNet, a community site that unites the diverse regenerative medicine community, marked the day by exploring some of the myths and misconceptions still surrounding stem cells and stem cell research.
You can read those here.
Every group takes a different approach to celebrating Stem Cell Awareness Day, but each is united by a common desire, to help people understand the progress being made in finding new treatments and even cures for people with unmet medical needs.