Regenerative medicine and stem cell research

The Ottawa Hospital’s Regenerative Medicine Program is a major centre for the growing area of stem cell research. It is home to more than 250 research staff, working under the leadership of world-renowned stem cell biologist Dr. Michael Rudnicki.

The Challenge

Can human stem cells be harnessed to rebuild the heart after a heart attack? Restore vision to the blind? Reconnect a broken spinal cord? This is the promise of regenerative medicine and the life’s work of more than 250 scientists, clinical investigators, trainees, and staff in The Ottawa Hospital’s Regenerative Medicine Program. Today our teams relentlessly pursue answers to the world’s most challenging health care problems. Tomorrow holds even greater promise as our researchers harness regenerative medicine to pioneer made-in-Ottawa personalized therapies and treatments. Our big ideas are becoming the future of patient care and people are turning to us to solve the world’s greatest health care challenges.

Our Vision

Our researchers continue to discover and harness the incredible power of human stem cells to rebuild, repair, and heal a wide range of medical issues. Stem cells offer the potential to repair the heart after a heart attack, restore vision to the blind, reconnect a broken spinal cord, regenerate brain tissue after a stroke, repair damaged insulin-producing tissue in diabetics, and heal tissues damaged by severe infectious diseases.

We are leading the world in developing new therapies that use living cells and viruses to treat disease. Our groundbreaking work includes numerous world-first clinical trials of cancer-fighting viruses and stem cells. We’re also exploring gene-enhancing stem cells to repair a heart after a heart attack, stem cells to treat septic shock and exosomes, previously thought to be cellular junk, that may be able to help us understand, diagnose, and treat acute myeloid leukemia.

Our patients deserve the best and need us to continue to innovate and provide hope, and our global partners expect nothing less from us.

“We’re entering a new era. More and more we are going to see regenerative medicine use cellular and molecular tools to treat devasting diseases with no current therapy.” – Dr. Michael Rudnicki, Director, Regenerative Medicine Program and Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research

World Firsts

Dr. Duncan Stewart, CEO & Scientific Director, OHRI


Launched the first clinical trial of a gene-enhancing stem cell therapy to repair the heart after a heart attack.

Dr. Atkins and Dr. Freedman


First to use stem cells to send “stiff person syndrome” into long-term remission.

Dr. Lauralyn MacIntyre


Pioneered the use of stem cells to fight deadly septic shock infection, using stem cells to halt the sepsis and repair damage to affected organs.

Why The Ottawa Hospital

The Ottawa Hospital’s Regenerative Medicine Program is a major centre for the growing area of stem cell research. The program includes the Sinclair Centre for Regenerative Medicine, the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research, the Vision Research Centre, and also serves as headquarters for Canada’s Stem Cell Network.

A multidisciplinary culture makes our Regenerative Medicine Program unique in Canada, if not the world. Here, developmental, cell, and molecular biologists work together with bioinformaticists, clinical scientists, and clinicians, in teams and common facilities. Collectively they leverage each other’s work to impact clinical care and translate new discoveries into treatments that can be tested in clinical trials. In fact, the Ottawa Hospital is one of the largest research hospitals in Canada with more than 600 active clinical trials.

Your Impact

According to Dr. Michael Rudnicki, Director of The Ottawa Hospital’s Regenerative Medicine Program, “Stem cell research in Canada is now reaching the point where clinical practice will be impacted in exciting and unforeseen ways.” Thanks to the generous support of our donors, world-class researchers are making discoveries, developing new treatments, and transforming lives–in short, revolutionizing the care we provide patients–every day.

You can have a profound impact in the revolutionary world of regenerative medicine. Your support of The Ottawa Hospital’s Regenerative Medicine Program propels forward our researchers who are working to discover and harness the power of human stem cells to rebuild, repair, and heal a wide range of medical issues.

“Caring for a newborn with severe sepsis is heartbreaking. Current treatments are limited, and antibiotic resistance makes it even more difficult to treat…What we see in the lab is very promising. We think stem cells are going to be a game-changer for these babies.” – Dr. Bernard Thébaud, Senior Scientist, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Dr. Daniel Coutu, Research Chair, Regenerative Orthopaedic Surgery
Dr. Daniel Coutu, Research Chair, Regenerative Orthopaedic Surgery

Star researcher in regenerative medicine helps blaze a trail to effectively halt the degenerative process

“Ottawa is the place to be for stem cell research,” said Dr. Daniel Coutu. He should know. He’s a bone stem cell expert recruited from Switzerland.

Dr. Coutu leads research to help understand how bone regenerates, repairs, and heals. He also investigates the impact trauma, aging, and chronic degeneration has on bones.

Dr. Coutu was part of a team in Switzerland that took on this challenge and developed microscopy techniques to enable scientists to analyze bone and see where stem cells are and what they do. “Because of these techniques, we are just starting to understand the fundamental biology of bone stem cells,” he said.

Dr. Coutu is now the inaugural holder of the Research Chair in Regenerative Orthopaedic Surgery, and based at The Ottawa Hospital’s Sinclair Centre for Regenerative Medicine.

Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells Research Update

Stems cells make dream come true

When Jennifer Molson was 21 years old, she dreamed of becoming a police officer, marrying her boyfriend and dancing at her wedding. Those dreams were shattered when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Over a period of six years she had multiple relapses. She was in a wheelchair, unable to work, and looking for a miracle. That’s when Drs. Mark Freedman and Harry Atkins from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute told her about an experimental treatment using stem cells. Jennifer became the sixth patient in a groundbreaking clinical trial during which stem cells were extracted from her bone marrow and transplanted back into her body. Jennifer found her miracle. Today she no longer needs a wheelchair. She is off medication, works full time, and leads an independent life. And, yes, she married her boyfriend and danced at her wedding.

The Ottawa Hospital Foundation is raising money for research that is revolutionizing the care we provide patients.

Be Inspired

30 years after treatment, leukemia survivor forever grateful
Robert Noseworthy was diagnosed with a childhood leukemia at the age of 30. This was rare for someone his age and his prognosis was grim. 30 years later, he gives back to cancer research with his grown children by his side.
Immunotherapy eradicates cop’s melanoma
Staff Sergeant Ian McDonell has no evidence of melanoma after being treated with immunotherapy.
Unexpected breast cancer diagnosis leads patient down an uncertain path
It was a routine mammogram that turned Annette Gibbons’ world upside down. An unexpected breast cancer diagnosis sent her on a journey of treatment and uncertainty that required she place her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.