Paving the way for revolutionary regenerative treatments

Peripheral neurons differentiated from human embryonic stem cells

We're working together to turn lab discoveries into regenerative treatment for diseases like Parkinson's and deafness.

The £4.5m Hub for pluripotent stem cell research brings together the universities of Sheffield, Loughborough and Cambridge and forms part of a £25 million investment in regenerative medicine by three UK Research Councils.

Regenerative medicine seeks to repair or replace damaged or diseased human cells or tissues to restore normal function. The funding will support research and provide equipment for the development of regenerative medicine therapies.

Professor Peter Andrews, a stem cell biologist from the Centre for Stem Cell Biology at our University, who leads the Hub, said: "Human trials for regenerative therapies based on stem cells are now on the horizon for some conditions, including several forms of blindness. But we’re still a long way off from being able to produce cell therapies for lots of different disease at an industrial scale.

"The Hub brings together, for the first time in the UK, researchers with the range of expertise necessary to develop the processes needed to take these cells from laboratory-based research to the commercial manufacture of safe, effective and reproducible products for use in regenerative medicine."

At the moment, experimental regenerative therapies involve the use of relatively small numbers of cells, usually prepared by laboratory researchers.

To be able to treat the thousands of patients who could benefit from regenerative medicine, scientists ultimately need to be able to scale up these efforts to reliably and repeatedly manufacture thousands of millions of cells under uniform and controlled conditions.

The aim of the Hub is to lay the initial foundations for scaling up the production of cell-based therapies from a cottage industry to an industrial scale. It will develop a set of protocols for manufacturing cell therapies that meet the requirements of doctors, regulators and industry and tackle key challenges.

Initially Hub scientsts will focus on two disease areas – Parkinson's disease and deafness – where efforts to develop cell therapies are already well underway.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Regenerative medicine has the potential to revolutionise the way in which we deliver therapies for a range of diseases and disorders. This investment will allow our world-class science and research base to explore ways in which new medicines can be manufactured and commercialised."

The Hub is part of the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform (UKRMP), funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council (MRC).