Dr. Hans S. Keirstead is an Associate Professor at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, and Co-Director of the Stem Cell Research Center at the University of California at Irvine. The Canadian-born neuroscientist received his PhD from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His PhD thesis concerned his invention of a novel method for regenerating damaged spinal cords, and formed the basis of several worldwide patents as well as the formation of a company in 1999. This work constituted the first demonstration of functional regeneration of the injured adult spinal cord, and for his achievements he received the Cameron Award for the outstanding PhD thesis in Canada.
Dr. Keirstead then moved to Cambridge England, where he conducted four years of Post-Doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge, furthering his studies of spinal cord injury and beginning studies of multiple sclerosis. He was awarded Canadian and British Fellowships to support this work. He received the distinct honor of election to two senior academic posts, Fellow of the Governing Body of Downing College, and Senate Member of the University of Cambridge, and was the youngest member to be elected to those positions.
In 2000, Dr. Keirstead joined the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at the University of California at Irvine. The Reeve-Irvine Research Center, founded by the late Christopher Reeve and philanthropist Joan Irvine, is a leading center for spinal cord injury research. Dr. Keirstead directs a large team investigating the cellular biology and treatment of spinal cord trauma, research that also has significance for multiple sclerosis and other diseases of the nervous system. In order to bring his treatments to clinical trials, he has founded or partnered with biotechnology companies to fund and conduct pre-clinical and clinical development. Dr. Keirstead was recently awarded the Distinguished Assistant Professor of UCI Award, the UCI Academic Senate’s highest honor, and was thereafter promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. In 2005, he was awarded the UCI Innovation Award for innovative research leading to corporate and clinical development.
Dr. Keirstead has testified at Federal and California Senate Hearings on several occasions regarding the potential of stem cells, is an avid scientific correspondent for public education, was an advisor to the California government on stem cell policy, was a Scientific Advisory Committee Member of the California Stem Cell Initiative that authored Proposition 71, and maintains working relationships with several stem cell companies, venture capital groups, and government economic development offices in the United States, Sweden and Norway.
Dr. Keirstead is also Vice Chancellor of Academic Development at UDECOM (University of Community Development, in French) situated in Guinea, Africa. UDECOM grants Bachelors and PhD degrees for community development in rural Africa. Dr. Keirstead leads several efforts to develop the university and improve the quality of lives for those in the surrounding communities.
The focus of the Keirstead laboratory is the development of strategies to limit degeneration and enhance regeneration after spinal cord injury and disease. The Keirstead Research Group utilizes a broad number of investigative techniques, including molecular and histological analyses, complex tissue culture, and in vivo experimentation. The Keirstead Research Group is also staffed to engage in FDA compliant pre-clinical work, employing a Regulatory Quality Assurance team that ensures that all research is FDA compliant.
The Keirstead Research Group is investigating strategies to reduce or eliminate the post traumatic enlargement of spinal cord injury sites that normally occurs after traumatic injury. The team developed an injection-based therapy that significantly decreased tissue loss if administered soon after injury. Human reagents necessary for clinical trials have been generated, and a clinical trial using this approach began in late-2005.
The Keirstead Research Group also investigates cell transplantation therapy for spinal cord injury, and was the first laboratory in North America to gain access to human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) for CNS trauma research. The team is generating new hESC lines from blastocysts and using somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), and developing protocols to differentiate hESCs into high purity populations of human cells. For example, the team developed high purity hESC-derived oligodendrocyte progenitors with the goal of treating demyelination in acute spinal cord injury, and investigating the development of this human lineage. This work is the basis of a therapy that is currently being developed for clinical trials. The laboratory is generating other cell populations that may benefit chronic spinal cord injury and other diseases of the spinal cord, and is also researching means to eliminate the glial scar that forms after spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.
Reeve-Irvine Research Center – Faulty – Hans Keirstead