Duke University has received a grant from the Robertson Foundation to facilitate Duke Medicine’s pioneering cell therapy research and treatment programs for children and adults with cancer, cerebral palsy, stroke and brain injuries suffered at birth. The intention of the grant, according to Victor J. Dzau, M.D., chancellor for Health Affairs, is to facilitate the translation of advances in cell therapy to patient care, particularly related to the work of Joanne Kurtzberg, M.D., and her team, who have spent decades investigating the therapeutic use of umbilical cord blood stem cells.
“The emerging field of regenerative medicine has great promise, and this generous gift will accelerate the pace of Dr. Kurtzberg’s, and other Duke scientists’ world-renowned, translational work in cell therapies,” said Dzau.”
Dr. Kurtzberg is the director of Duke’s Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. Dr. Kurtzberg is internationally recognized for her work in cord blood stem cell therapies. Dr. Kurtzberg provided care for the first person ever to receive a cord blood transplant, and was the first in the world to perform an unrelated cord blood transplant. Much of her current interest focuses on children with acquired or genetically-linked brain injury.
“Dr. Kurtzberg’s research reflects the kind of transformational science that has the potential to change the lives of thousands of people throughout the country and around the world,” said Julian Robertson on behalf of the Robertson Foundation. “The Foundation has enormous respect for the research conducted at Duke over the course of our longstanding relationship, and we are pleased to support it through this gift.”
Umbilical cord blood stem cells, normally discarded after birth, have the ability to grow and develop into various types of cells throughout the body. They can be harvested after birth and stored for future transplant in patients with many types of blood disorders, and increasingly, other diseases as well.
Over time, Dr. Kurtzberg says that support from the Robertson Foundation will also enable:
- Studies of cord blood stem cell transplants in certain newborns with congenital heart disease
- Studies of cord blood-derived oligodendrocyte-like cells (cells that produce myelin and insulating factors coating nerves in the brain) in certain children with genetically-acquired neurodegenerative diseases
- Studies to determine the value of using cord blood or bone marrow cells in adults with stroke or brain injury resulting from radiation to treat brain cancer