Northwestern Medicine Physician Researcher and Patients Participated in Vatican Stem Cell Conference

Northwestern Medicine
Clinical Trials and Research June 23, 2016
Dr. Burt, along with two patients, Grace Meihaus and Elizabeth Cougentakis, participated in a panel discussion moderated by CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, MD, about using adult stem cells to treat autoimmune disorders during the Vatican's conference on cellular therapy and research.

Richard Burt, MD, chief of the division of immunotherapy at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, recently traveled to the Vatican for a historic conference that brought together the world’s leading cell therapy scientists, physicians, patients, ethicists and leaders of faith, government and philanthropy to the discuss the latest cellular therapy breakthroughs and hope for the future. Dr. Burt pioneered the use of hematopoietic stem cells to treat autoimmune diseases. He performed either America's first or the world's first autologous (one's own) hematopoietic stem cell transplants (HSCT) for numerous immune mediated diseases.
 
Dr. Burt, along with two patients, Grace Meihaus* and Elizabeth Cougentakis*, participated in a panel discussion moderated by CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, MD, about using adult stem cells to treat autoimmune disorders. Vice President Joe Biden also spoke at the conference about his Cancer Moonshot initiative. The historic three-day event, held April 28 to 30, was The Third International Conference on the Progress of Regenerative Medicine and Its Cultural Impact.*

Meihaus, 22, received a stem cell transplant in 2015 for scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis (SSc), a rare autoimmune rheumatic disease that affects the skin and other organs. A Catholic, Meihaus jumped at the opportunity to attend the Vatican conference when invited by Dr. Burt.
 
“It was an absolute privilege to attend a conference dedicated to healing people and focusing on the future of medicine,” said Meihaus. “Most importantly, I was honored to be a witness to others who have Scleroderma and to let them know that there is hope through HSCT. Meeting the Pope was a devout Catholic's dream come true. He is such a peaceful and holy man, I was honored to be in his presence.”
 
The event, titled Cellular Horizons: How Science, Technology, Information and Communication will Impact Society*, was a continuation of a seven-year collaboration between The Stem For Life Foundation, a not-for-profit organization devoted to advancing global awareness of regenerative medicine and cell therapy, The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, and STOQ (Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest) Foundation. Featuring the personal involvement of Pope Francis, who met with attendees in a private audience, this year’s event had a unique focus on cancer therapy and rare diseases in marginalized populations, pediatric diseases, as well as those that occur with aging.
 
Under Dr. Burt’s leadership, Northwestern Medicine’s Division of Immunotherapy and Autoimmune Diseases (DIAD) is the only center in the world devoted to a unique area of treatment and research utilizing stem cell transplantation in clinical trials for autoimmune diseases and vascular diseases.

To learn more about stem cell research and immunotherapy, call 312.695.4960.

Watch Dr. Burt’s panel “Using Adult Stem Cells to Treat Autoimmune Disorders” at the Vatican’s Cellular Horizons conference.*



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