Initial focus on stem cells and arthritic disease, burn care and diabetic foot ulceration
The Irish Blood Transfusion Service is supporting a major new national initiative led by NUI Galway and involving research groups in Cork and Dublin. This will enable research into innovative cell-based therapies and will, for the first time, provide access to these new treatments for patients in Ireland.
Blood transfusion is a life-saving procedure that has been carried out for many decades. In fact it represents one the earliest and most successful forms of cell therapy. This revolutionary science of cell therapy now encompasses a range of procedures involving the delivery of healthy cells to injured tissue in order to treat a disease or stimulate repair.
The objective of the NUI Galway-led programme is to build a research network to develop sustainable manufacturing technology and to validate the effectiveness of these new therapies, leading to a greater research effort and wider access to these new cell-based therapies in Ireland.
The project involves a partnership between the three major cell therapy research centres in Ireland, the the SFI funded Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway, the National Adult Stem Cell Transplant Centre at St. James’s Hospital/Trinity College Dublin, and the Centre for Research in Vascular Biology at University College Cork.
Initially, the programme will focus on three key areas:
- Regenerative medicine applications in arthritis, burn care and diabetic wounds
These applications all arise from a substantial and convincing research effort, mainly carried out in the partners’ laboratories, indicating that stem cells can stimulate an effective and sustained repair response in arthritic joints, can bring about the development of new blood vessels in ischaemic limbs and can stimulate wound healing in, for example, burns and chronic wounds.
- Stem cell manufacturing and clinical trials
A sustainable stem cell manufacturing platform will be developed and a series of pivotal preclinical studies and clinical trials will be carried out. The Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland, a cell bioprocessing facility built to the highest international standards at REMEDI in NUI Galway, will be the manufacturing site for culture‐expanded cells for clinical use. Clinical studies will be optimised by utilising the integrated efforts of the Health Research Board Clinical Research Facilities.
- Stem cell transplantation techniques
- Bone marrow has been used as a source of stem cells for transplantation for many years. Over the last two decades, umbilical cord blood has emerged as an important stem cell source for those in need of transplantation. The use of otherwise discarded cord blood stem cells is a very important strategy already used to treat some conditions and has the potential to provide new therapies not available previously.
Professor Frank Barry is Scientific Director of REMEDI at NUI Galway and Principal Investigator on the research programme: “The development of these innovative therapeutic platforms in association with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service is a new approach to medical research in Ireland. The scope of the programme is broad and ambitious and brings together world-leading researchers and clinicians in cellular therapy. It has the potential to provide patients in Ireland with new, ground-breaking therapies.”
The interest in cell‐based therapy has grown exponentially in the last decade, as the tremendous potential to lead to effective treatments for a variety of major diseases is being realised. Despite many breakthroughs, cell therapy is still largely experimental and the development of a worldwide platform in cell‐based regenerative medicine still faces many challenges. According to Frank Barry “This new research programme will take us several steps closer to that goal.”
According to Dr Ian Franklin, Medical and Scientific Director of the IBTS: “IBTS is delighted to support this three site collaboration led by the REMDI centre at NUI Galway. Conventional blood transfusion is still essential to modern health care but the next generation of treatments will require the production of cell based treatments to promote body repair, healing and the regeneration of tissues and organs in the laboratory. Ireland’s universities have the expertise to develop these approaches and IBTS has the experience and ability to provide the quality manufacturing environment to bring these treatments to patients within the health care system.”