Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

Prof. Dr. Ivan Martin about his research on regenerative medicine
(video in German)

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Stem cell research and regenerative medicine are major pillars within the Department of Biomedicine (DBM) and the life science strategy of the University of Basel. The last decade has seen substantial progress in identifying and isolating stem cells from different adult tissues and embryonic origin, which can be induced to differentiate into various specific cell-types relevant to regenerative medicine. The groups of this focal area are active in various aspects of this fascinating field with relevance to basic, mechanistic and clinically applied, translational research.

The basic research efforts aim to identify and isolate stem cells and understand how stem cells are maintained in their normal niches within the embryo and/or the body. As such, several groups are studying how stem cells of the blood are maintained in the bone marrow, differentiate into the various different cell-types of the hematopoietic system, and how their differentiation potential is altered in malignant states that are caused by aberrant stem cell-based cancers (e.g. leukemiaor lymphomas). The close interactions of clinical with basic researchers allow bridging the gap between fundamental and translational research. For example, attempts to grow and differentiate mesenchymal stem cells from human and mouse bone marrow in vitro into different cell- and tissue-types, aim at developing cartilage and bone replacement therapies that can be translated to the clinic. The knowledge gained from these studies forms the basis for designing and developing clinically applicable tissue engineering strategies and in moving toward regenerative medicine.

One of the major aims of regenerative medicine is to reactivate and support the regenerative potential of the body in a controlled manner. To this aim, understanding the normal regulation of organogenesis and tissue homeostasis is crucial. While first attempts have given encouraging results, it is important to gain a much better knowledge of how stem cells interact with their niche to maintain their multi-potency and give rise to daughter cells that undergo transient amplification upon leaving the niche. These populations of transient amplifying cells will then initiate their specification and differentiation in a controlled manner. Our challenge is to establish culture conditions where stem cells can be maintained and their specification and differentiation into functional tissues can be induced in an efficient and precisely controlled manner. Any functional organ and tissue will consist of well-organized and functionally interacting cells with different identities. Therefore, it is important to e. g. understand the role of embryonic signaling centers in tissue patterning/organization and cell-type specification/differentiation.

The knowledge gained from analyzing cell-type, tissue specification and organogenesis during normal embryonic development is highly relevant to directed engineering of tissues from progenitor and/or stem cells. So-called induced pluripotentstem (iPS) cells – adult cells (e. g. skin cells) reprogrammed into stem-like cells– are increasingly used as they can be relatively easily obtained from patients for cell differentiation and tissue engineering studies. The generation and analysis of iPS cells fits the strategy of the DBM to promote collaborative efforts between basicresearch groups and clinicians with the aim to significantly reduce the gap between bench and bedside. In addition to interactions within the DBM, there are numerous collaborations with groups at the Biozentrum, FMI and the D-BSSE, which are funded by network grants such as Sinergia and SystemsX.ch. Many of our groups are actively participating in the Basel Stem Cell Network, which is one of the Competence Centers within the Life Sciences at the University of Basel. There, stem cell researchers have the opportunity to closely interact and collaborate with developmental biologists, geneticists and even mathematicians with the objective to foster interdisciplinary and innovative research.

Research Groups Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

Banfi Andrea, PD Dr. med. Cell and Gene Therapy
Bettler Bernhard, Prof. Dr. Molecular Neurobiology Synaptic Plasticity
Bischofberger Josef, Prof. Dr. Cellular Neurophysiology
Bodmer Daniel, Prof. Dr. med. Inner Ear Research
Brink Marijke, Prof. Dr. CardioBiology
Christofori Gerhard M., Prof. Dr. Tumor Biology
De Geyter Christian, Prof. Dr. med. Gynecological Endocrinology
Itin Peter, Prof. Dr. med. Dermatology
Kaufmann Beat, Prof. Dr. med. Cardiovascular Molecular Imaging
Krähenbühl Stephan, Prof. Dr. med. Clinical Pharmacology
Kuster Pfister Gabriela, PD Dr. med. Myocardial Research
Lengerke Claudia, Prof. Dr. med. Stem Cells and Hematopoiesis
Marsano Anna, PD Dr. Cardiac Surgery and Engineering
Martin Ivan, Prof. Dr. Tissue Engineering
Meyer Sara, Dr. med. Myeloid Malignancies
Müller-Gerbl Magdalena, Prof. Dr. Musculoskeletal Research
Roth Michael, Prof. Dr. Pulmonary Cell Research
Skoda Radek, Prof. Dr. med. Experimental Hematology
Spindler Volker, Prof. Dr. med. Cell Adhesion
Tamm Michael, Prof. Dr. med. Pulmonary Cell Research
Taylor Verdon, Prof. Dr. Embryology and Stem Cell Biology
Zeller Rolf, Prof. Dr. Developmental Genetics
Zuniga Aimée, PD Dr. Developmental Genetics