The UT spin-off company Materiomics has been granted a European subsidy of 540,000 euros for stem cell research. The company has been asked to participate in the prestigious HumEn project, which will be looking for a stem cell-based diabetes treatment. Within this project, Materiomics will be looking for the best way to grow stem cells inside a laboratory and to have them grow into the desired cell type.
Stem cells can be an important weapon in the fight against various illnesses, such as diabetes, because they can still grow into all kinds of cells. If you are able to have a body's own stem cells grow inside a laboratory into so-called insulin-producing beta cells and place these cells back in a diabetes patient, you may potentially cure the disease.
In practice, however, converting stem cells inside a laboratory into these beta cells has been unsuccessful so far. Within the HumEn project, a large European research project, an international consortium of six research institutes and three companies will be looking for a way to produce the insulin-producing beta cells.
One of the participating companies is Materiomics, a spin-off company of the University of Twente, which developed the TopoChip (see below). Materiomics specializes in research into the influence of the surface structure - on which a cell grows - on the development of that cell. In this research project, the company will focus on finding the surface structure on which stem cells can be grown best and can then be turned into the desired cell type. In doing so, the company mostly examines so-called human iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) - normal cells which have been ‘reprogrammed’ to become stem cells - and in addition human embryonic stem cells. The European Commission grants Materiomics a subsidy of 540,000 euros for four years of research.
Bernke Papenburg, Chief Operations Officer at Materiomics, is honoured that her company has been asked to participate in the research project. "All expertise in this field of study has been united in this project. It is an honour to be a part of this and a recognition of the work we have accomplished over the past few years."
Materiomics specializes in finding the right surface structure for medical or biological applications. The company has developed the TopoChip, which can be used to examine the effect of 2178 different surface structures in one go. On the chip, which can be made of any material desired, you can 'seed' cells. After these cells have been given the chance to attach and grow, you can see which surface produces the best results for a specific application.
The European Commission’s HEALTH research programme recently granted a total of 42 million euros for seven stem cell research 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.
The HumEn researchers have already established closer, collaborative ties with the researchers of three of the other projects. The four consortia will collaborate and coordinate training and outreach activities, sharing relevant basic knowledge and benefitting from interdisciplinary and intersectorial synergies across the projects. The three other projects are: PluriMes, a project focusing on directing pluripotent stem cells to become bone- and muscle-forming cells; Neurostemcellrepair, a project aimed at taking human stem cells through the final steps towards clinical application in cell replacement therapy for neurological disorders such as Parkinson's Disease; and ThymiStem, a programme focusing on developing stem cell techniques to boost the immune system by repairing the thymus, a key organ for producing important immune cells.
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