Stem cells in regenerative therapies
Initiators: Ulrich Martin (Hannover), Wolfgang Wagner (Aachen) and Michael Cross (Leipzig)
Stem cells fulfil pivotal roles during embryonic and fetal development and are crucial for tissue homeostasis and repair in the adult organism. There is therefore obvious potential for utilizing these cells and their abilities for therapeutic regeneration, repair and replacement of aged, degenerated or injured tissue.
Recent progress in the different fields of stem cell research has led to many mechanistic insights into stem cell biology and the identification of various stem cell types in different organs, and has clarified their distinct roles in healthy and diseased tissue. New technologies now allow for identification and isolation of different types of adult stem cells, as well as for their cultivation and further differentiation. Also, straightforward techniques have been developed that permit the generation of “induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells” from adult somatic cells. These cells are very similar to embryonic stem cells with respect to their unlimited potential for proliferation and differentiation, but they offer a source of patient-specific stem cells and do not require the destruction of embryos.
Altogether, these achievements are opening up a wide variety of potential therapeutic applications for stem cells and stem cell based engineered tissue products in regenerative medicine. A few procedures are already established in the clinic, however, most remain more or less distant goals.
To streamline the development of viable and effective applications it is important to exchange opinions, experience, expertise and resources across the fields of basic research and human medicine:
- Which indications can be targeted?
- What is the most appropriate cell source and strategy?
- What are the minimum requirements for a therapeutic benefit?
- What are the foreseeable bottlenecks (cell number, cell function, safety, route of application…)?
The GSCN Scientific Working Group on “Stem cells in regenerative therapies” has been formed to provide a forum in which researchers at all levels can search for and find cooperation partners, establish synergies and maximise their chances of developing successful therapies.
At recent GSCN conferences we enjoyed presentations picked from the best of the submitted abstracts and also discussed ways in which we can best meet the specific needs of translational research. Of course, the success of the WG depends on your input and fruitful discussions among researchers, clinicians, ethicists, regulatory authorities, industry and last but not least patient representatives.
Interview with Frank Emmrich on regenerative medicine and stem cell research