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Funding boost for stem cell research

Research to find therapies for chronic and untreatable conditions will be boosted with a multi-million pound funding announcement.

The University is one of three research hubs in the UK to benefit from £20m being awarded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) for regenerative medicine research.

Turning research into therapies

The three hubs, which specialise in regenerative medicine, will look at ways of translating research from the laboratory into therapies in the clinic.

Such treatments will look at regenerating damaged tissue, and could revolutionise care for conditions such as heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, blindness and liver failure.

We are interested in how the body’s tissues ‘talk’ to stem cells in order to repair damage. If we could stimulate these processes with drugs, medical care for a wide range of chronic diseases could be transformed.

Professor Stuart ForbesCentre for Regenerative Medicine

Edinburgh hub

Funding of £4.5 million will enable researchers at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh to investigate the effects of cells and structures that surround stem cells.

Better understanding of how this affects stem cells, will help improve ways to stimulate repair of tissues and organs.

This could include ways to trigger the body’s own repair process with drugs.

It could also help the use of transplanted cells in conditions such as liver disease, where a scarred liver is unable to repair itself sufficiently.

Funding for regenerative research

Around £13 million of the multi-centred grant is being awarded through the first stage of the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform (UKRMP).

The UKRMP is jointly funded by the MRC, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

A further £7.5 million has been awarded by the British Heart Foundation to fund scientists at three new dedicated research centres to repair the damaged caused by a heart attacks.

These centres will work with the UKRMP-funded scientists to develop tools, technologies, and engineering solutions needed to take regenerative therapies into the clinic.

This includes scientists at the University’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, which also encompasses laboratories funded by the British Heart Foundation.

Complexity of stem cells

In addition to research at Edinburgh, the MRC and BHF grant announcement will aid research at centres based at Liverpool and Nottingham Universities.

Though advancements have been made in laboratory studies of stem cells, to date relatively few therapies have been trialled on humans.

This is largely because cell-based therapies are far more complex than traditional small molecule drugs and require further research and new approaches.

This is to make sure they are safe, effective and can be produced in the volumes required to treat large numbers of patients.

This funding from the Research Councils and British Heart Foundation will help the UK move closer to realising the full potential of regenerative medicine to transform the lives of patients. By bringing together experts from a broad range of scientific disciplines the hubs will help forge links between academia and industry to drive innovation, promote clinical and commercial development of therapies and help grow a vibrant UK bioindustry in this area.

Dr Rob BuckleMedical Resarch Council, Director of the UKRMP