Research & stem cells
Stem cells are crucial for a healthy organism
Stem cells play a central role in the normal growth and development
of animals and humans.
They have three properties that distinguish them from other
cell types and make them interesting to scientists:
- they are unspecialised
- they are able to divide and produce copies of themselves
- they have the potential to produce other cell types
Stem cells are central to many research areas
Stem cells provide an ideal model to understand
the development of organisms under healthy and disease condition. It should
help decrease animal use.
EU project FUNGENES is exploring functional genomics
in mouse embryonic stem cells, to understand how information from the
genome is used in subsets during development. Subsets are cell self-renewal,
and the three layers of embryonic tissues from which all adult tissues
and organs come from. web: www.fungenes.org
Stem cells are expected to offer means to develop new families
of drugs and new therapies: harnessing cell specialisation will lead to regenerative
goal of the EU project EUROSTEMCELL is to develop a technical
platform for new cell based therapies and drugs, in the fields of neurological
diseases, muscle repair and neuromuscular diseases, and in epidermal repair.
Stem cell lines of embryonic, foetal and adult origin will be compared
for possible therapeutic potential. web: www.eurostemcell.org
Stem cells are daily used to treat cancer: bone marrow grafts
have been used against leukemias for 30 years. Research is done to extent this
the 30,000 persons per year who would need treatment, 16,000 patients
will receive transplants from donors. The graft is aimed at replenishing
blood cells after anti-cancer treatment, or a serious blood disorder.
The EU project ALLOSTEM aims to enable more patients
to be treated by making transplants safer and more effective. web: www.allostem.org
Stem cells are experimentally used to repair
injured organs or to fix degenerative diseases. They are injected into the body,
often after being modified.
Adult stem cells are in charge of
replacing damaged cells in the body. However, self-renewal of cardial
cells is limited, and injuries such as myocardial infarction are irreversible.
The EU project SC-CR is proposing to reprogramme adult stem cells,
especially from bone marrow, to transform them into cardiac cells. web:
Stem cells are used to build new tissues
outside the body, to be grafted, or used for toxicology testing. Applications
are now scarce but are expected to grow.
The ultimate aim of the EU project CORNEA
ENGINEERING is to reconstruct a human corneas in the laboratory, for use
both in corneal grafting, and as an alternative to animals for cosmeto-pharmacology
testing. Adult stem cells from the cornea will be grown on a nano-engineered
scaffold of proteins. web:
Research needs to study stem cells of all origins
Each type of stem cell (adult, foetal and embryonic), in humans
and animals, is a glance at a different moment of a global dynamic process.
Only a partial knowledge can be expected from research done on one type of stem
The use of some stem cells is a matter of debate
Research on human embryonic stem cells, a tiny part of the
overall research on stem cells, raises several ethical issues. They are addressed
by national legislation worldwide. The 25 Member States have such regulations.
Current figures for EU-funded research:
- About 50 projects involving stem cells have been funded, for about 300 million
- In addition to the few exemples above, you can consult the catalogue of
EU-funded research projects involving stem cells, for the whole range of projects.
Research on human stem cells fall in the field of ethics. For more information, see: