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Stem cell research: New, major EU research grant focused on the development of stem cell-based therapies for neurodegenerative diseases

Neurostemcellrepair (European consortium for neural cell replacement, reprogramming and functional brain repair) is formed to create a world-leading consortium that aims at taking human through the final steps toward clinical application in . Neurostemcellrepair is expected to close the gap between development and clinical implementation of replacement therapies for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and make significant advance towards therapy in Huntington’s Disease (HD).

Neurostemcellrepair, a 4-year FP7 project funded by the European Union under grant agreement 602278, has been awarded a total budget of 6 million and it is led by Coordinator Prof. Elena Cattaneo – University of Milan. It brings together leading European stem cell-research groups and industrial partners in a coordinated and collaborative effort which comprises 8 academic partners, 3 SMEs and 1 Research Enterprise from 4 European Countries. The project teams represent a wide range of competences, including stem cell specialists, developmental neurobiologists, experts in neurodegeneration, scientists with links to the clinic and stem cell manufacturing/clinical validation.

Closing the gap between development and clinical implementation of stem cell therapies Prof. Cattaneo explains that over the last decade, several groups have obtained neuronal cells from different stem cells sources in a culture dish. More recently work conducted by Neurostemcell optimised new protocols that can generate the authentic neurons that die in PD and HD. Neurostemcellrepair is now gearing up to refine the neurons under conditions that would be suitable for clinical use especially for PD. The process involves careful adaptations in cell manufacturing, scale up and safety testing.

Neurostemcellrepair is part of larger, European effort

The European Commission’s HEALTH research programme recently granted funding for seven projects. Common for these projects is the focus on understanding the underlying mechanism of the self-renewing capacity of stem cells and their differentiation into mature functional cell types suitable for various cell-based therapeutic applications.

Neurostemcellrepair has already established closer, collaborative relations to three of the other projects. The four consortia will collaborate and coordinate training and outreach activities, sharing relevant basic knowledge and benefit from interdisciplinary and intersectorial synergies across the projects. The three other projects are: PluriMes, a project focused on directing pluripotent stem cells to become bone and muscle forming cells; HuMen, a project aimed at developing glucose-responsive, insulin-producing beta cells for future cell-replacement therapy in diabetes; and ThymiStem, a program to develop stem cell approaches to boosting the immune system by repairing the thymus, a key organ for producing important immune cells.