Signals Blog

Stem cells don’t usually feature prominently at Olympic events, unless in connection with performance enhancement, which has been alleged at both the 2008 and 2012 summer games. But, as Paul Knoepfler pointed out in his blog, if stem cell doping at the Olympic level is happening at all, it’s likely on a very small scale and, in any event, is not explicitly banned by the IOC.

In the spirit of the Olympics, we thought it fitting to award some medals of our own to stem cell discoveries or announcements that have taken place in the past week or two. A word of warning, the judges (or judge in this case) are biased — but then, we don’t have to live by IOC rules. We can also choose to include a Star Wars mashup at the end of the post if we want to.

BRONZE: Here’s our only (quasi) link to the Olympics on our podium — this medal goes to Zubin Master and Tim Caulfield for producing a stem cell booklet for patients. Since performance enhancement and injury treatment in sports can walk a fine line between what research has shown to be effective and what falls into the realm of quack medicine, this booklet is essential reading for anyone interested in learning the realities of stem cell treatments.

Stem cells in space. Enough said.

GOLD: Cue the Canadian anthem… this medal goes to John Dick for his discovery of a pre-leukemic stem cell that is the root of acute myeloid leukemia and that could be identified and treated early to prevent onset of the disease.

Still with us? Then check out our 4th place finisher: the Star Wars Olympics mashup, as promised.

Our regular feature, Right Turn, showcases the “lighter” side of stem cells and regenerative medicine. Every Friday, we will bring you cartoons, photos, videos and other content that may be just as thought provoking as the written submissions that you are used to finding here, but they definitely won’t be blogs.

As always, we welcome your feedback and we also welcome suitable submissions. Be creative! Use the right (!) side of your brain. Make us laugh! Let’s see if we can make this new direction a positive one for all of us. Send your submission to info(at)

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Lisa Willemse

Lisa Willemse

Lisa is a science communicator with 15+ years' experience in the fields of regenerative medicine, child development and technology. She launched this blog (first as the Stem Cell Network Blog) in 2009, and served as co-editor until April 2015. She is currently the Senior Communications Advisor for the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and has recently contributed to Motherboard, Science Borealis and the Genome Alberta and Canadian Blood Services blogs. Follow her on Twitter and Medium @WillemseLA.