Regenerative medicine improves health span by restoring tissue and organ function. By replacing, engineering or regenerating cells following transplantation, we are able to restore tissues. For this purpose, we need to understand the biology of stem cells that replenish our tissues and how they can be engineered to improve their function with ageing.

We aim to expedite the development of regenerative medicine therapies by bridging fundamental and translational research. We study how the stem cells work that can replenish aged or damaged tissues and how we can safely push these stem cells to produce new organ-specific cells.

Our main topics are the following:

  • the biology of stem cells, including induced pluripotent stem cells and tools to genome engineer stem cells;
  • the biology of stem cell-derived differentiated tissues and their 2D and 3D culture systems including organoids and organ-on-a-chip cultures;
  • the interaction of regenerated tissues with their (micro)environment and non-biological materials.
Relevance

Improving health span

The development of regenerative medicine offers great promise for the development of novel treatments for an improved health span for patients.

With our programme, we aim to repair or replace damaged tissues and organs by using biological engineering strategies. Regenerative medicine interventions are currently under development in all types of medical areas, ranging from neurological disorders to cardio-vascular disorders and orthopedic disorders. Furthermore, regenerative medicine could potentially play a role in counteracting the natural ageing processes within the body.

  • We bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and clinicians focused on regenerative medicine in the broadest sense.
  • We facilitate interaction to foster cross-disciplinary thinking and to encourage collaborative science on the topic of regenerative medicine from bench to bedside.
  • We focus on translating this knowledge to treatments in clinical practice. In this way we will contribute to a better health span of the elderly in the future.
  • While stem cell technology has made it possible to generate any tissue type in a dish even in 3D culture settings, one major limitation has been that most of these cultures only involved one tissue type. This was mostly because each cell type required specific culture media. We try to circumvent this limitation by using organ-on-a-chip technology which enables culturing multiple cell types within a single ‘chip’ where each cell type is fed by separate microchannels. Yet, the different cells types are still close enough to interact. This allows us to study the interaction between tissues generated from patient-derived stem cells.

    As UMCG we are involved in a large national consortium that brings organ-on-a-chip technology to a new level. Within Regenerate, we connect researchers with expertise of stem cell technology with researchers that further develop organ-on-a-chip technology, expediting the application of organ-on-a-chip technology with patient-derived pluripotent stem cells.

    Visit: NOCI

  • With the advent of protocols to reprogram any somatic cell into pluripotent stem cells it has become possible to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from any patient or healthy donor. Since pluripotent stem cells can be used to generate any cell type in culture, this technology is revolutionizing the field of regenerative medicine, especially when combined with CRISPR genome engineering.

    Our iPSC/CRISPR facility established in 2016 supports scientists and clinicians in generating iPSCs. Within the facility we developed protocols to alter the genome of the iPSCs using CRISPR genome engineering. This for instance allows to generate patient-derived stem cells and differentiated progeny in which a pathogenic mutation in the DNA is repaired. Scientists can compare the effects of such a pathogenic mutation in cells to cells in which this mutation is repaired to improve our molecular understanding of the disease.

    Visit: iPSC/CRISPR facility

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a devastating disease that results from loss of the protective myelin surrounding neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Over time, MS will lead to various symptoms that include muscle weakness and loss of coordination. While a malfunctioning immune system appears to contribute to myelin destruction, the genetic and environmental drives of MS remain poorly understood.

    Our programme acquired funding from the Vriendenloterij to establish a biobank of iPSCs derived from MS patients and unaffected family members. This biobank will serve as a repository for MS researchers in the Netherlands and internationally to expedite our understanding of the biology of MS.