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StemBANCC aims to provide well characterised patient derived induced pluripotent stem cell lines and associated biomaterials in an accessible and sustainable bio-bank. StemBANCC also aims to demonstrate proof of concept for the utility of induced pluripotent stem cells in drug discovery for hard-to-treat disorders.

Stem cells have enormous potential in health and medical research. For example, researching the differentiation processes and understanding to control stem cell differentiation in the laboratory is providing insights into how humans develop from embryo to adult. Directing the growth of cells or tissues can be used for specific purposes such as modelling diseases, drug screening or cell-based therapies.

 

Despite the fact that stem cell research has been advancing fast, there are many challenges ahead to allow the use of stem cells for drug discovery or regenerative medicine.

At present, new drugs are tested in animals or in human cells (cell culture) in a laboratory, to see if they are safe and effective before they can be tested in people. However, neither animals nor currently used human cells offer a completely satisfactory way of testing drugs, especially for treatment of diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, migraine and many others.

 

Animals, as far as we know, do not get these diseases and so make poor models for studying how new drugs might act in human patients. The currently used human cells are also often biologically different from the cells in patients who would actually be receiving the drug. This means that even if a drug works in experiments, it may fail as a treatment in patients.

 

A better way to test new drugs would be to use cells from patients who are affected by specific diseases. Being able to study these kinds of cells may also help to understand the disease better, improve diagnosis and develop other possible treatments.

 

It is difficult to collect sufficient amounts of cells from individuals affected by disease to be able to do these studies. However by transforming an individual’s cells into an iPSC line that can multiply almost indefinitely, it creates a long-term supply of useful cells that can be used for different research studies without running out. 

Induced pluripotent cells (iPS cells) are adult cells artificially modified to give rise to pluripotent capabilities. In other words, cells with a specialized function such as blood cells are ‘reprogrammed’ to be able to form all cell types of the body. They are set into a more primitive state similar to that of an embryonic stem cell.

 

IPS cells hold immense promise for disease-specific research. They serve to study causes of diseases and for testing drugs or developing new treatments by providing access to cells that would otherwise be impossible to access.

Stem cells are the starting point for every cell in every organ and tissue in our bodies. They have the unique ability to self-renew and to develop into any of the specialised types of cells.

 

There are two main categories of stem cells: embryonic and adult stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells are obtained from a very early stage in development. They are pluripotent as they can become any cell type in the body such as nerve cells, heart cells or liver cells.

 

Adult stem cells can be typically found in certain types of tissues that need to continuously replenish themselves such as blood or skin. Adult stem cells typically generate the cell types of the tissue or organ in which they reside and are called multipotent. For example, stem cells found within the brain can produce nerve cells but not liver cells.

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