January 06, 2011
Philip H. Schwartz, Ph.D., senior scientist at the CHOC Children’s Research Institute and managing director of the facility’s National Human Neural Stem Cell Resource, was recently awarded a “Bob and Suzanne Wright Trailblazer Award” from Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. The award supports, through funding, what Autism Speaks considers to be highly novel “out of the box” autism-relevant research.
Dr. Schwartz’ study was one of only three selected, from more than 30 submitted applications, for funding. The organization is recognizing him for his efforts to build a unique resource that aims to bring personalized medical solutions to individuals living with autism. Recent advances in stem cell research have enabled Dr. Schwartz and his colleagues in the field to use a small sample of skin tissue to create stem cells (induced pluripotent stem cells or iPSCs) that can then be used to make personalized copies of any type of cell in the body. Of interest to autism, of course, is the brain, or neural stem cells. In addition to successfully creating neural stem cells from skin tissue, Dr. Schwartz is pioneering a method for incorporating them into living mouse brains to evaluate how these human cells function as part of a living brain.
Enthusiastic about his research, Dr. Schwartz explains, “If we are successful, we will be able to test novel therapeutic approaches and examine those putative therapies on bona fide human cells in an in vivo (in a living organism) setting. This is about as close as we can get to clinical trials without actually using humans.”
Nationally recognized for his work in the stem cell field, Dr. Schwartz’ research focuses on the use of stem cells to understand the neurobiological causes of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. With funding support from CHOC, Dr. Schwartz established the National Human Neural Stem Cell Resource (NHNSCR) in 2001 to support national research in the field of neural stem cells by providing a reliable source for these cells to investigators nationwide. In addition to acting as a stem cell repository, the NHNSCR hosts periodic training courses and scientific meetings and will soon publish a comprehensive technical manual on human stem cell research.
About CHOC Children's: Named one of the best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report (2013-2014), CHOC Children's is exclusively committed to the health and well-being of children through clinical expertise, advocacy, outreach and research that brings advanced treatment to pediatric patients. Affiliated with the University of California, Irvine, CHOC’s regional healthcare network includes two state-of-the-art hospitals in Orange and Mission Viejo, several primary and specialty care clinics, a pediatric residency program, and four centers of excellence - The CHOC Children’s Heart, Neuroscience, Orthopaedic and Hyundai Cancer Institutes. CHOC earned the Gold Level CAPE Award from the California Council of Excellence, the only children’s hospital in California to ever earn this distinction, and was awarded Magnet designation, the highest honor bestowed to hospitals for nursing excellence. Recognized for extraordinary commitment to high-quality critical care standards, CHOC’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) is the first in the United States to earn the Pediatric Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence.
Denise Almazan, Director of Public Relations
phone: (714) 509-8680