STEM cell scientists take a step closer to developing pioneering new therapies with the opening of a £3m trio of laboratories at Durham University.
The laboratories will be used for investigations into the therapeutic potential of ‘adult’ stem cells for medical issues such as wound healing and heart disease.
Durham University is a key partner in the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI)*, and employs more than 50 stem cell researchers, including 12 senior academics.
The new laboratories, based on the University’s Science Site on South Road, Durham, have been funded by One North East and the Government’s Science Research Investment Fund.
Durham stem cell scientists are currently working on projects which include using stem cells to generate artificial blood vessels for use in heart transplantation and identifying how stem cells age to obtain knowledge which could be used in drug development.
They are also working with Teesside company, Avecia, to develop stem cell technology for use in wound healing, which will include burns treatment for the skin.
The new facilities opened on Friday June 20, by Sir Ian Wilmut, director of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University and co-creator of Dolly the cloned sheep and Margaret Fay, chairman of the regional development agency, One North East, which is also a NESCI partner.
Scientists from outside Durham will also be able to use the facilities to advance their work in adult stem cells.
Professor Chris Hutchison, co-director of NESCI at Durham, said: “These facilities position Durham at the forefront of research in adult stem cells but most importantly will ensure we can take our work to the clinic and to the market within a much shorter timescale than was possible before.”
Stem cells are a special type of cell that has the ability to renew other cells in the body. Adult stem cells are found throughout the body and perform the everyday renewal of existing cells. They are more properly known as ‘somatic’ stem cells and they are present as soon as a baby is born.
The challenge facing stem cell scientists is to find out how these stem cells work naturally in the body, how they may be made to work better, and, potentially, how they may be re-programmed to work in new ways.
Margaret Fay said: “The North East England Stem Cell Institute has a real opportunity to make an invaluable contribution to the region’s economy, its future success and quality of life issues over the coming years.
“Durham University, as a key partner in NESCI, is playing a major part in the North East region, cementing its credentials as a centre of excellence in the field of Healthcare and Health Sciences.”