Danielle Cohen's blog from StemCellTalks Vancouver 2015

Danielle Cohen
8 July 2015

Living with diabetes might seem like a minor annoyance with the help of today’s medical technology. But in reality, it can still be as tough and emotionally draining as ever. My soccer coach was born with Type 1 diabetes. He is the most inspirational and hard-working man I know, always participating in practice with a positive attitude. I never fully understood what life was like for him until I heard Peter Hurley, a graduate student and patient advocate, speak at StemCellTalks Vancouver 2015. He described the number of needles he uses on a daily basis, as well as all the planning and work he puts into something as simple as eating. This revelation only deepened my respect for my coach, since now I can imagine how passionate he must be about coaching and all the effort he must put into playing and travelling with us.

Danielle Cohen attended the StemCellTalks Vancouver symposium held at the University of British Columbia on May 15, 2015.

My experience at StemCellTalks Vancouver also opened my eyes to some amazing medical advances and possibilities for the future. I learned more than you could ever imagine. Going into it, I had a very basic understanding of diabetes, stem cells, and how the two are related. I find the medical and technological advances that have been made to try and help people with diseases like diabetes to be truly amazing. Whether it’s pig islet transplantation or iPS cells, both of which are incredible and innovative ideas, I feel confident that science is close to reaching its goal of controlling or even curing diabetes.

Personally, I think that in the long run, iPS cells offer a more sustainable solution to diabetes and other diseases, since you can continually create new cells from a more ethical source. iPS cells are also a more personal solution for the patient, since the treatment uses cells originating from their own body. This reduces the risk of an adaptive immune rejection, thereby increasing the chance of success. With their endless possibilities, iPS cells could be the coolest medical advance around. The ability to return a regular skin cell back to its pluripotent state, and then model the problem or create new cells to help fix it is incredible! Attending StemCellTalks has helped me realize that the future holds endless possibilities.

While visiting the different booths during lunch hour, I got to learn about some real-life applications for stem cells. A standout booth was STEMCELL Technologies Inc. They showed me how to isolate stem cells from a blood sample, as well as ways to find mutated cells. This introduced me to a more technological side of medicine that I had never seen before.

Learning from Dr. Fabio Rossi of the UBC Biomedical Research Centre about the basics of stem cells enlightened me as to what medical school might be like. I found him to be engaging and knowledgeable, making me very excited for my future educational endeavours.

After listening to Dr. Francis Lynn and Dr. Bruce Verchere of UBC’s Child and Family Research Institute debate issues in stem cell research, I felt inspired by their passion. It made me want to get involved and share my opinion. The breakout sessions that followed were perfect for doing just that. Group leaders facilitated stimulating conversations and answered any and every kind of question we had.

All in all, my day at StemCellTalks Vancouver allowed me to see myself pursuing an exciting career in medicine, filled with innovative ideas and techniques surrounding stem cells. The amazing speakers gave me an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the vast and exciting world of stem cell research. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Danielle Cohen

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