Conferences archive > 2009 > SPEAKERS & ABSTRACTS

Giulio Cossu

Giulio Cossu received his MD degree from the University of Rome in 1997. He trained as a Fogarty post-doctoral at the Wistar Institute, University of Pennsylvania (1980-83), and then became Associate Professor at the Dept. of Histology and Medical Embryology of the University of Rome "La Sapienza". In 1991 GC was promoted full Professor and in 1993-4 was a visiting professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. In 2000 he was appointed Director of the “Stem Cell Research Institute” of the Hospital San Raffaele in Milan. In 2003 he was appointed as Scientific Coordinator of the newly created San Raffaele Biomedical Science Park of Rome, while maintaining is position in Milan. Since 2005 he is Professor of Histology and Embryology at the University of Milan. In 2008, he was appointed Director of the newly created San Raffaele Division of Regenerative Medicine. Since 1997 GC has been elected EMBO Member; he been President of the Italian Association of Cell and Developmental Biology (1998-2001), Member of the Directory Board of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (2003-2005) and Chairperson of the Stem Cell Committee in the European Society of Gene Therapy (2003-2005). GC is currently a Member of the Directory Board of the International Society for Differentiation. He is also Senior Editor of EMBO Molecular Medicine and member of the Editorial Board of Journal of Cell Science, Cell Death&Differentiation, International Journal of Developmental Biology and of Stem Cell Research. He is currently serving as Chairperson for Panel LS7 (Molecular Medicine) for the European Research Council. He is also member of the ISSCR Task force for Clinical Translation of Stem Cell Research   Giulio Cossu has a long lasting interest in the field of muscle cell and developmental biology. He discovered the myogenic potential of a bone-marrow derived, circulating progenitor cell (Ferrari et al., Science 279, 1528-1530, 1998). Recently he identified a novel population of vessel associated stem cell, the mesoangioblasts (Minasi et al. Development 129, 2773, 2002; Dellavalle et al. Nature Cell Biol. 9, 255, 2007) that proved effective in the treatment of a mouse and dog models of muscular dystrophy (Sampaolesi et al. Science 301, 487, 2003; Sampaolesi et al. Nature, 444, 574, 2006; Gargioli et al. Nature Medicine 14, 973, 2008). He is the PI of the first clinical trial with donor stem cells for muscular dystrophy.   GC is author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications (including Cell, Science, Neuron, Nature, Nature Cell Biology, Nature Medicine, Nature Neuroscience, J. Clin. Invest., J. Cell Biol., Development, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, EMBO J. etc.); he has been invited as speaker in most meeting on myogenesis and on stem cells and has organized EMBO workshops and Gordon Conferences of this topic. He receives funding from many national and international agencies, such as Telethon, Duchenne Parent Project, Human Frontiers Science Organization, European Community, European Research Council, Muscular Dystrophy Association (USA), Association Francoise contra les Myopathies, etc.    

Stem cells: replacement therapy

Giulio Cossu
Division of Regenerative Medicine, San Raffaele Scientific Institute

These years have witnessed extraordinary results of stem cell transplantation  for  the therapy of previously incurable diseases such as congenital immune deficiencies or epidermolysis bullosa (Mavilio et al. 2006; Aiuti et al., 2009). For many other diseases, trials are imminent and results will be available in the next future. Despite the excitement for providing new therapies for otherwise incurable diseases, we all face a number of problems and risks. The International Society for Stem Cell Research recently published Guidelines for Clinical Translation of Stem Cell Research ( ) in order to advise scientists, clinicians and patients on the necessary steps to be undertaken in order to start clinical experimentation with stem cells with minimal  risks  and  maximal chance of success (Hyun et al., 2008).
This rapidly changing scenario unfortunately offers a fertile ground for the explosive proliferation of private clinics all over the world that promise therapies for incurable diseases and are the target of “stem cell tourism”. Warning against these treatments by academics will have little impact on those who are desperate and who see a disease progress daily, taking more and more of their own life or that of their loved ones. Although criteria to distinguish between official Institutions and private clinics are obvious to the experts, they may not be so obvious for patients or journalists and the possibility exists that soon the idea that stem cells are a tricky and money-making business may seriously undermine the whole development of the field.
Therefore the stem cell research community is now confronted with this thorny dilemma: making rules more and more rigorous will insure safety but delay progress and raise costs to unaffordable levels; loosening these rules will open to field to private, uncontrolled experimentation that may be deleterious for patients. Finding a balance between these two extremes will be the challenge of the nest decade.

Aiuti et al.  (2009) New Engl J  Med  360:447-458. Hyun et al. (2008) Cell Stem Cell 3:607-609.
Mavilio et al. (2006) Nature Med 12:1397-402.

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