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Promoting research of stem cell therapy

Lisa Ray, the glamorous Bollywood actor and model once voted the ninthMost Beautiful Women of the Millenium, now stands at a podium talkingabout — of all things — stem cell transplants.

Lisa Ray, the glamorous Bollywood actor and model once voted the ninth Most Beautiful Women of the Millenium, now stands at a podium talking about — of all things — stem cell transplants.

Ray recently received a blood stem cell transplant, and it has given her a second chance at life. In 2009, at only age 37, Ray was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable form of cancer that affects the blood.

Normally, this cancer occurs in much older people. Ray, who starred in the 2005 Oscar-nominated film Water, is now cancer-free, as the transplant and other treatments put her disease into remission.

On a fall day in Toronto, Ray stands alongside some of Canada’s leading scientists to passionately promote stem cell research. This evolving science will eventually transform treatments, not only for diseases of the blood, but also heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, leukemia, and spinal cord injury. Stem cells are the body’s “starter” cells, which can be coaxed in the laboratory into developing into many different cell types.

The McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University Health Network is at the cutting edge of stem cell research. At its high-tech laboratory in downtown Toronto, researchers create blood cells, like the ones transplanted into Ray, as well as heart, pancreas and liver cells. The centre shares its stem cells with other centres around the world.

“We make the cells and allow our colleagues to do something interesting with them,” says Dr. Gordon Keller, director of the McEwen Centre.

 
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