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NIH Symposium: Challenges & Promise of Cell-Based Therapies
May 6, 2008
Natcher Conference Center
NIH Main Campus, Bethesda, Maryland

Closing Remarks and Summary

James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, NIH

Dr. Battey thanked the speakers and organizing committee for an excellent and thought-provoking set of discussions. He noted that hematopoietic stem cells have been used in research for more than 50 years, and it is expected that these and other stem cells will play an increasingly important role in medicine in the 21st century. With any stem cell, however, issues related to number and purity are critical. Experimentally, it remains challenging to demonstrate transdifferentiation using rigid criteria. Stem cell-based treatments can occur in a number of ways (e.g., immune modulation, cell replacement), but a more readily attainable goal is to establish the cells for disease models. Modeling of disease will prove critical in any strategy to deliver cells to a specific locale such that they can interact with extant tissue and restore function.

In conclusion, Dr. Battey observed that this area of science will transform medicine in the next few years. However, transplantation therapy for pluripotent cells is an unlikely near-term goal. As such, the expectations of patients and families regarding the availability and economics of treatments must be managed carefully. He noted that this workshop has reinforced the NIH’s conviction to support research that explores the use of many types of stem cells for clinical benefit.

The meeting was then adjourned.