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StemCore Laboratories: Catalyzing genomics projects in the Nation’s Capital

October 4, 2018

StemCore Laboratories is one of Canada’s most advanced genomics facilities, fueling breakthroughs in stem cell research and regenerative medicine, as well as other health-related areas such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Located at the General Campus of the Ottawa Hospital, StemCore is a core facility of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the University of Ottawa. Founded in 2002 by stem cell pioneers Drs. Michael Rudnicki and Ronald Worton, StemCore supports the research community in Ottawa and beyond to facilitate small, medium, and large-scale high-throughput genomics projects.

Initial major investments from Genome Canada and the Stem Cell Network provided infrastructure funding for StemCore’s startup and facilitated the Stem Cell Genomics Project. Ongoing funding has been provided by the Government of Ontario, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, the University of Ottawa, Genome Canada, Ontario Genomics, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Stem Cell Network.

Since it’s inception, StemCore has offered a wide array of technologies to support the research community and help researchers answer basic questions about human health and disease. The services currently provided by StemCore include Sanger DNA Sequencing, Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), Single Cell Analysis, and Flow Cytometry.

The DNA Sequencing Facility is equipped with a 3730 DNA Analyzer, the first such instrument in Canada. The 3730 remains a veritable workhorse, supporting numerous applications including DNA sequencing, fragment analysis, and bisulfite sequencing.

NGS services are supported by Illumina’s MiniSeq and NextSeq 500. StemCore’s burgeoning Single Cell Analysis Facility is equipped with 10X Genomics Chromium and Fluidigm C1 platforms. Ancillary instrumentation is available for sample QA/QC (Qubit, AATI Fragment Analyzer, Countess II) and data validation (qPCR, digital droplet PCR). Cell sorting services using the MoFlo XDP are provided as a front-end workflow for downstream genomic analyses.

StemCore’s five-member team has a combined seventy-three years of experience. Working closely with OHRI’s Bioinformatics Core Facility, this expert, dedicated staff is able to provide end-to-end genomics services. Available services include, experimental design, statistical calculations, proof of concept studies, grant-writing support, assay development, and manuscript preparation. Our goal is to assist researchers to ensure project success.

StemCore supports basic, translational, and clinical research projects from multiple disciplines including stem cells and regenerative medicine, personalized medicine, cancer, agriculture and agri-food, public health, environmental genomics, and bio-pharma. A few of the notable research projects facilitated by StemCore include:

The Stem Cell Genomics Project
Led by Dr. Michael Rudnicki, this groundbreaking initiative is providing crucial insight into the genes guiding stem cell identity. During the five-year lifespan of this project, StemCore interacted with twenty-five world-renowned stem cell biologists throughout Canada in this Genome Canada and Stem Cell Network supported endeavour. Five-hundred well characterized embryonic and adult stem cell populations were prepared and profiled. This project resulted in the construction of StemBase, which continues to be an important resource for stem cell researchers around the world.

The Ovarian Cancer Atlas
This innovative project, led by Dr. Barbara Vanderhyden, aims to perform single cell transcriptome analysis of ovarian cancer samples. This data will allow her team to identify and characterize the hierarchy of cancerous and normal cells contained within the tumor.  The data obtained will be correlated with therapeutic response and will provide crucial insight into treatment of this disease.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Identified as a Disease of Stem Cells
For nearly 20 years, researchers thought that muscle weakness observed in people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) was primarily due to problems in muscle fibres. But Dr. Michael Rudnicki and his team showed that it is also due to problems inside muscle stem cells, which give rise to muscle fibers. This completely changed the understanding of DMD and could eventually lead to far more effective treatments. Experiments at StemCore played a key role in this discovery by revealing that muscle stem cells express the DMD gene, something that had never before been observed.

Bringing Personalized Medicine to People with Lung Cancer
This project will develop a method to test for multiple genetic mutations all at once in small tumour samples from people with non-small cell lung cancer. These mutations can determine which drug will best work for a given patient. This is particularly important in light of the increasing number of clinically relevant mutations and the limited number of patient cells available for analysis. This project will develop improved protocols that permit rapid, multiplexed testing to allow patients to fully benefit from personalized therapy. This project is funded by Genome Canada and is a partnership between the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association. It is led by Dr. David Stewart and Craig Ivany.

For more information about our services please see the StemCore website or contact StemCore’s Director, Dr. Pearl Campbell, at (613) 737-8899 x73110 or pcampbell@ohri.ca. We would be happy to assist you with your project.