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Watch: Stem cells and women's health webinar

July 01, 2024


Endometriosis, breast cancer, pelvic organ prolapse: can stem cell science help women’s health?

  • How is stem cell science changing our understanding of endometriosis? Why does it take so long for women to be diagnosed?
  • What causes breast cancer? How is it treated?
  • Can the damage to the pelvic floor from childbirth be repaired?
  • What can we reasonably hope for in the future?

Three of Australia’s top stem cell researchers answered these questions and more in the webinar event Future Medicine: Stem Cells and Women’s Health.

Featuring speakers:

  • Endometriosis - Professor Caroline Gargett
  • Breast cancer - Professor Geoff Lindeman
  • Birth trauma injuries and pelvic floor disorders - Dr Shayanti Mukherjee.

The National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia held this free public webinar to share the latest developments in stem cell research to study and treat a suite of women’s conditions, hosted by Science in Public’s director of engagement Tanya Ha. 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

Endometriosis is a painful chronic condition. In Australia, it affects at least one in 9 girls and women and those assigned female at birth. Symptoms include severe pelvic pain, heavy periods, painful sex, pain on passing urine and bowel motions, and infertility, affecting quality of life. It is often overlooked or misdiagnosed as ‘just painful periods’. On average, it takes 6.5 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis.

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a debilitating condition that affects many women, soon after or many years after vaginal birth. There is currently no reliable cure for POP.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with 20,640 new cases in 2022. In that year, 3,178 women and 36 men died from the disease.

The good news is that women’s health is getting more attention. Endometriosis is being taken seriously, awareness and diagnosis is improving, and tissue engineering is offering new hope for reproductive health. Survival rates for breast cancer are improving, thanks to earlier diagnosis, improvements in treatment options, and the work of scientists and clinicians in Australia and around the world.

More about the speakers and moderator:

Professor Caroline Gargett is a research scientist working in women's reproductive health and an expert on endometrial stem cells. She Heads the Women’s Health Theme and the Endometrial Stem Cell Biology Group in the Ritchie Centre at Hudson Institute of Medical Research, a National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Leadership Fellow, and a Foundation director and Chair of its Science and Ethics Committee: www.stemcellfoundation.net.au/caroline_gargett

Professor Geoff Lindeman is a clinician-scientist investigating normal mammary gland development and events that go awry that lead to breast cancer. Geoff is joint head of the Cancer Biology and Stem Cells Division at the WEHI and a medical oncologist (breast cancer) at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne Hospital. He is also a Foundation Director and serves on its Science and Ethics Committee: www.stemcellfoundation.net.au/geoff_lindeman

Dr Shayanti Mukherjee is an Al and Val Rosenstrauss Fellow and Group Head, Translational Tissue Engineering Lab and Executive at the Ritchie Centre at Hudson Institute of Medical Research. Shayanti specialises in researching innovative cell-based therapies for pelvic floor disorders and birth trauma injuries, such as optimising meshes to improve treatment of pelvic organ prolapse and developing 3D printing with stem cells for pelvic floor reconstructive surgery: www.hudson.org.au/researcher-profile/shayanti-mukherjee/

Tanya Ha (moderator) is Director of Engagement at Science in Public, where she has looked after communication for the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia, among other clients, for more than 10 years. She is also an award-winning science journalist, television presenter, author, speaker and sustainable living advocate: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/about/theteam#Tanya

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