Prestigious grant for FHML joint project
The VISION project, a collaboration between the MERLN Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine (Maastricht University), the University Eye Clinic Maastricht (MUMC+) and the Veneto Eye Bank Foundation (FBVO, Italy), was awarded a TOP grant by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) earlier this month. The team, led by Professor Clemens van Blitterswijk and Dr. Sabine van Rijt (MERLN), Prof. Rudy Nuijts and Dr. Mor Dickman (MUMC+), and Dr. Stefano Ferraro (FBVO) will receive €675,000 for its research.
Why this research?
It is unclear how stem cells control regenerative processes. One of the biggest questions to be answered is whether transplanted stem cells themselves are responsible for regeneration, or whether they activate the endogenous stem cells already present in the damaged tissue. According to the research group led by Van Blitterswijk, the eye is the perfect place to look for a solution to this question. This is because the eye is the only organ for which a cellular regenerative therapy is available and is easy to study using microscopic techniques because of the transparent tissue there. The eye also contains all of the important cell types that are present elsewhere in the human body. As such, it will be possible to directly translate the knowledge gained into more general tissue regeneration concepts and to other organs.
How do the researchers plan to proceed?
The objective is to use nanotechnology to label stem cells, paving the way for the use of various imaging techniques to follow stem cells. This will enable the scientists to observe the behaviour of transplanted stem cells at various levels. The knowledge gained will firstly be used to improve current stem cell therapy for cornea repair. This research will also contribute to the development of new treatment methods for eye damage. The researchers will be able to apply the knowledge gained to other organs too.