Dreams and Due Diligence

Dreams and Due Diligence: Till & McCulloch's Stem Cell Discovery and Legacy

JOE SORNBERGER
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttv0v
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  • Book Info
    Dreams and Due Diligence
    Book Description:

    Dreams and Due Diligencevividly chronicles the work of two researchers who made medical history – two men who possessed exactly the right complementary talents to achieve greatness and win nearly every award available in medical research.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9412-5
    Subjects: Health Sciences, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Alan Bernstein

    There have been two great revolutions in science over the past 100 years – first physics and now biology. This book tells the story of a key part of the revolution in the biological sciences. Since the Second World War, no area of science has made such extraordinary progress and achieved so many landmark advances as rapidly as biomedical research. These advances have profoundly changed how we view life on this planet, our bodies, human health, and disease.

    The revolution in the biological sciences has many signposts, but two are fundamental: first, the discovery in the 1940s and early 1950s...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-2)
    Joe Sornberger
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    On the cover of a 2004 magazine produced by the Stem Cell Network, Ernest Armstrong McCulloch and James Edgar Till are pictured outside their offices at a railing overlooking the atrium at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Till, with a full head of silver hair, smiles widely. McCulloch, bald, does not. They appear to be comparable in height, but this has been achieved by digitally lifting the image of the much smaller, stouter McCulloch to fit the frame better.

    Tall and lean, short and stout. If physically they resembled Bert and Ernie come to life – or to go...

  7. Part One: Discovery
    • 1 On a Sunday in 1960
      (pp. 9-11)

      It must have been a cold day, because he would remember that the fireplace was crackling when he left the family home to head to the lab. He would recall the day ʹvividly,ʹ though he could no longer remember the date, except that it was a Sunday, or the season, though he thought it was autumn. But then, it would have been hard for anyone, let alone a man in his mid-eighties nearing the end of his life after several years of serious health problems, to retrieve a date from fifty years ago that wasnʹt a family birth, a wedding,...

    • 2 After the A-Bomb, before the Beatles
      (pp. 12-18)

      Toronto was a different place when James Till and Ernest McCulloch were setting to work on the paper that would change the way people thought about biology. While it had blossomed considerably from what McCulloch described as the ʹmiserable little townʹ he grew up in, it was a long way from the cosmopolitan centre it would become. There was no CN Tower or Rogers Centre. No Henry Moore sculpture on Nathan Phillips Square. The Toronto of 1960 was the kind of place where bars and movie theatres stayed shut on Sundays. If nothing short of world-class will do for Toronto...

    • 3 The Impossible Partnership
      (pp. 19-46)

      The boxes are stuffed with folder after folder of hand-drawn charts and graphs that plot the results of long-ago experiments. There are old carbon copy sheets of carefully typed letters and pages with nothing but columns of figures recording now forgotten calculations, many written carefully in pencil with the occasional erasure and correction. It is an impressive collection: the lab notes, correspondence, and collected works of James Till and Ernest McCulloch take up almost eighty-five feet of shelf space – the equivalent of six average-sized automobiles parked in a line – in the University of Toronto Archives. There is, however,...

  8. Part Two: Development
    • 4 A Bunch of Kids Having a Good Time
      (pp. 49-65)

      Jim Till remembers an annual general meeting of the Stem Cell Network, held a few years ago in Montreal, at which he and Ernest McCulloch were honoured. Both gave speeches to the stem cell scientists – young and old – from across Canada who had assembled in the hall.

      ʹAlan Bernstein was chairing the session,ʹ says Till, ʹand after we had spoken, he said, ʺI want to do a little experiment. I would like to have the people who worked directly with either Till or McCulloch stand up.ʺ So a few people stood up, and Alan of course was one...

    • 5 The Progeny
      (pp. 66-82)

      Fifty years ago, Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch were hard at work in their lab at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto trying to solve the riddle of bone marrow to find out how the body makes blood and how cells repopulate and replenish. Today, Guy Sauvageau, CEO and Scientific Director of the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer in Montreal, is trying to find ways to make bone marrow repopulate and replenish blood cells better.

      The times have changed, the quest has not. What drove Till and McCulloch to make their scientific discoveries now drives Sauvageau. ʹIʹve always...

    • Photos
      (pp. None)
  9. Part Three: Today and Tomorrow
    • 6 Ethics, Hope, and Hype
      (pp. 85-98)

      If politics and religion make strange bedfellows, things get even stranger when science is added to the mix.

      The field of stem cell science has been marked by heated debate, so much so that simply using the term ʹstem cellʹ is enough to upset some. Words like ʹcloneʹ also carry a weight of controversy, especially since 1996, when scientists in Scotland cloned Dolly the sheep from a single adult cell. People often forget that stem cells are used in medical practice on a daily basis. Every time a bone marrow transplant succeeds in saving a cancer patientʹs life, it is...

    • 7 The Evil Twin: The Cancer Stem Cell
      (pp. 99-104)

      It is no coincidence that two cancer researchers proved the existence of stem cells. Nor is it a coincidence that it happened in laboratories on the top two floors of a cancer hospital. Cancer research and stem cell research have always walked hand in hand. When they found those bumps on the spleens of the irradiated mice, Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch were part of a team looking for ways to launch a counterattack on leukemia. So, as touched upon earlier in this book, it is not surprising that it is now widely believed – though still disputed by many...

    • 8 The Beneficiary
      (pp. 105-114)

      If stem cell science is still a work in progress, there have been some notable successes beyond bone marrow transplantation and advances in cancer treatment. There have been reported cases of immunological disorders such as HIV and Crohnʹs disease responding well to stem cell treatment. And since 2001, two Ottawa doctors, one of whom is directly linked to the Till and McCulloch scientific lineage, have been pioneering a stem cell treatment for multiple sclerosis. By the close of 2010, two dozen patients had gone through the treatment. Jennifer Molson was one of them.

      Looking back, Molson thinks that her disease...

    • 9 The Future
      (pp. 115-125)

      The revolution in regenerative medicine began not with an explosion, but with a quiet murmur of curiosity expressed by Ernest McCulloch when he observed bumps on the spleens of his irradiated mice. It was a discovery of monumental importance then, for it provided the underpinning principles for bone marrow transplantation and led to leap-ahead advances in the treatment of leukemia and the understanding of cancer. Quite likely, however, its greatest impact is yet to come.

      In March 2009, when he signed an executive order to reverse the Bush administrationʹs strict limits on human embryonic stem cell research, U.S. President Barak...

    • 10 Little Fame, No Nobel
      (pp. 126-132)

      What do James Till and Ernest McCulloch have in common with fellow Canadians Norman Bethune and Wilder Penfield?

      All four made enormous contributions to medical science. Bethune was a surgical innovator who invented and improved operating room instruments and developed mobile blood banks for wounded soldiers. Penfield founded the Montreal Neurological Institute and his research led to a far greater understanding of how the brain works, particularly for people with epilepsy. But not one of the four has won the highest honour in their field: the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Only one Canadian has ever captured that prize:...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 133-138)

    While describing the protagonist of his satiric novelSolar, the acclaimed British novelist Ian McEwan captures the sense of pure awe that perfectly executed science can evoke:

    At the age of twenty-one he had read in wonder the Dirac Equation of 1928 in its full form, predicting the spin of an electron. A thing of pure beauty, that equation, one of the greatest intellectual feats ever performed, correctly demanding of nature the existence of antiparticles and placing before the young reader the wide horizons of the ʹDirac sea.ʹ85

    While McEwan was writing about one of the pivotal publications in modern...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 139-144)
  12. Index
    (pp. 145-148)