The United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) are collaborating to support eight new regenerative medicine projects seeking to develop therapies for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD).
The landmark £7 million (about $9 million) partnership will fund collaborative projects that focus on early stage development of new regenerative medicine-based treatments, and on the use of stem cells to study human development. In addition to Parkinson’s, prospective therapies would target a range of disorders that include blood diseases and liver disorders.
As a form of advanced therapy that could impact a number of currently incurable degenerative conditions, regenerative medicine is a branch of translational research in tissue engineering and molecular biology. It involves the process of replacing, engineering, or regenerating human or animal cells, tissues, or organs to restore or establish normal function.
“The UK and Japan are world leaders in stem cell and regenerative medicine research,” Fiona Watt, PhD, executive chair at the MRC, and Yoshinao Mishima, PhD, president of AMED, said in a press release.
“Past pioneering work in our countries has had a transformative impact and has revolutionised the potential for innovative approaches to medicine,” they said in a joint statement. “It is timely to bring our world leading groups together in their efforts to tackle the same therapeutic goals.”
For its part, the MRC, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), is funding the projects through the UKRI’s Fund for International Collaboration. AMED supports the projects’ Japanese components through what’s called The Program for Technological Innovation of Regenerative Medicine, which implements ideas that advance the fields of regenerative medicine and stem cells.
“Regenerative medicine is a strategic priority for the MRC and AMED, and these excellent international partnerships will complement our existing investments in regenerative medicine and stem cell research, and add real value to the field,” the joint statement added.
Projects awarded through the initiative include:
- A University of Cambridge and Kyoto University joint study that will investigate birth defects in 3D using induced pluripotent stem cells — cells that have the capacity to self-renew
- A University of Southhampton and Kyoto University joint project that will focus on bone regeneration
- A University of Cambridge and Kyoto University collaboration that hopes to generate platelets — blood cells that can form clots and stop bleeding — in the lab for clinical use
- A University of Edinburgh and Kyoto University joint project that will focus on reprogramming adult human liver tissue cells into liver stem cells with unlimited self-renewal that can be used for transplantation purposes
- A University of York and University of Tokyo collaboration that will study new technologies in human blood stem cell medicine
- A University of Cambridge and Kumamoto University collaboration that hopes to improve blood stem cell transplant procedures
- A University of Edinburgh and Kyoto University joint study that will investigate the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into dopaminergic neural cells — those that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and that are gradually lost during the course of Parkinson’s
- A University of Cambridge and National Institute for Basic Biology collaboration that will attempt to harness the flexibility of certain stem cells to increase transplant efficiency.
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