New approaches to grow stem cells for regenerative medicine

FUNDING: 12 months (full time UKRI stipend, £6,000 consumables)
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LOCATION: Department of Biology, University of York

Dr William Grey and Dr David Kent

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The engineering of stem cells for regenerative medicine is a rapidly developing field. One of the most well-known stem cell therapies is bone marrow transplantation (BMT) which relies on extracting haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from donors, and successful engraftment of these cells long-term in recipients to treat diseases such as blood cancers.

HSCs reside in the bone marrow of adults and umbilical cord blood (UCB) during pregnancy. Whilst bone marrow biopsy is invasive and harsh, UCB represents a less invasive, clinically important source of HSCs. UCB is readily available after pregnancy without extra treatment of donors and can be extensively banked. Further to this, UCB has a lower incidence of graft versus host disease, with less stringent donor cross-matching required compared to classical sources.

Unfortunately, limited progenitor cell dose, delay of engraftment and immune reconstitution and the cost of double UCB transplantation in adults, underline a need to improve expansion and potency of UCB for transplantation.

The student will work alongside scientists at York, the Francis Crick Institute, the Anthony Nolan Trust (the largest transplant provider in the U.K.) and Plasticell inc. to develop new approaches to grow HSCs from UCB for improved transplantation purposes. The project will cover a range of new techniques, novel drug combinations and extensive training in haematological research, with the student working across disciplines.