31 March 2009

MRC, EPSRC & BBSRC fellowship awarded to Dr Daniel Coca

We are pleased to announce that Dr Daniel Coca has been awarded a prestigious one-year "discipline-hopping" fellowship jointly funded by MRC, EPSRC & BBSRC on the topic "Stem Cell Dynamics: Exploration of the Stem Cell Attractor Landscape".

The MRC Discipline Hopping Grant scheme enables established researchers in the engineering or physical sciences to apply for funding to investigate and develop ideas, skills and collaborations in biological, clinical and population health research. The scheme is designed to encourage researchers to develop imaginative ways of using techniques or expertise from the engineering and physical sciences to tackle biological or medical research questions.

The battle against degenerative diseases

Stem cells have the unique ability to transform into any cell to make every type of tissue in the human body. The possibility to use both adult and embryonic stem cells to engineer and regenerate tissues and organs, develop therapies for degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, retinal degeneration, diabetes and ischemic heard disease represents probably the most significant and exciting advance in medical science that society has ever seen.

The biggest challenge in pursuit of this vision is to understand the mechanisms and factors that influence the decision of a stem cell to differentiate into a specific cell type i.e. liver cell, neuron etc. This project aims to apply mathematical modelling and analysis techniques, which are routinely used by systems engineers, to study the behaviour of embryonic stem cells in order to understand the mechanisms that control the ability of stem cells to choose between self renewal and differentiation.