Faculty professors Sue Kimber and Cay Kielty are partners in a new cross-university consortium which will form a research platform to address the gaps in knowledge, the challenges, and the opportunities for regenerative medicine offered by stem cells and their microenvironment (‘niche’). This hub will bring together world-leading expertise from Manchester, Edinburgh, KCL, Cambridge, Bristol, ICL, and Keele. The consortium is funded by an award to the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform, led by the Medical Research Council.
The hub aims to discover and deliver niche-based approaches to regenerative medicines by focusing on exemplar tissues such as cartilage. It will establish a platform of cutting-edge technologies which the UK community can apply to a spectrum of disease in which the failure of tissue repair causes societal suffering and economic hardship.
The overall objective of the hub is to promote the regeneration of healthy tissues by identifying the niche signals that direct stem cells to restore tissue function. This knowledge will allow stem cells to be regulated using biological agents, drugs, and other methods, and thus be exploited therapeutically. They also anticipate that new understandings of the abnormal niche created by inflammation following tissue damage will improve the effectiveness of repair by transplanted cells.
The consortium’s funding will help UK scientists overcome barriers in this emerging field, allowing them to transform laboratory discoveries into the most effective clinical applications. Regenerative medicine is a relatively new field of science, but with its great potential to repair or replace damaged tissues, it could provide therapies for as yet incurable conditions such as heart disease, Parkinson’s, blindness, osteoarthritis, and liver failure. Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:
“Regenerative medicine is a hugely promising area of science, which is why it featured in our Strategy for UK Life Sciences and was identified as one of the eight great technologies. This investment will help take excellent basic research through to clinical application, benefitting patients and driving growth.”