New centre of excellence to develop stem cell treatments for diabetes and diseases of the brain

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The Medical Research Council (MRC) today, Monday 21 June, announced funding of £1.5M towards a new centre of excellence at the University of Cambridge to develop stem cell treatments for diabetes and diseases of the brain, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.  

The Centre, co-funded by Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), will be directed by Professor Roger Pedersen.

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to repair or replace tissues and organs damaged by disease or disability, offering new hope of treatments and cures for many common diseases.  However, much research is needed to understand how stem cells work and how their potential could be harnessed.

Research and training activities supported by the MRC Cambridge Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine will generate new insights into basic stem cell biology which will provide the foundations for the development of clinical therapies, driving stem cell science and stem cell treatment forward in tandem.

The Centre’s basic research will focus on understanding the genetic and cellular mechanisms involved in the ability stem cells have for self-renewal and growth into any kind of body tissue.

Clinical research at the Centre will concentrate on harnessing the capacity of stem cells to form any type of cell in order to find ways to replace cells in vulnerable tissues that have been lost through disease, thereby developing effective treatments for currently untreatable diseases.

The Centre will combine the strengths of six leading UK stem cell research teams, into three autonomous Programmes: Stem Cell Biology, Stem Cell Genetics and Stem Cell Medicine, and will form the hub of an over-arching Cambridge Stem Cell Institute.

Together with other UK stem cell initiatives, the Centre will help form a co-ordinated UK stem cell research enterprise that will serve as a focus for the international stem cell effort.

Professor Roger Pedersen, Director of the new Centre, said:

“This funding comes at a critical juncture in the development of the stem cell field, as the UK builds strength and momentum to take the lead in the international stem cell research effort.

“Thousands of people live with the effects of juvenile diabetes, even though they take insulin, and existing therapies for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis, also fall far short of a cure.

“The new MRC Centre will help scientists bridge the gap between fundamental stem cell research and clinical application, speeding the delivery of treatments for diseases, many of which are currently incurable, from the lab to the clinic.”

Professor Colin Blakemore, Chief Executive of the MRC, said:

“We’re delighted to fund the MRC Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at Cambridge.  Stem cell science is at the cutting edge of medical research and offers enormous hope for the future treatment and cure of many life-threatening illnesses.”

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