All tissues seem to contain a population of stem/ progenitor cells, which mediate normal repair. When this mechanism fails or is overwhelmed degeneration results and leads to disease. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be isolated from adult tissues and are excellent candidates for regenerative medicine, which aims to repair damaged tissues at the cellular level. MSCs are self-renewing, able to differentiate into cells from multiple tissues and are the subject of at least 3 human clinical trials to evaluate t heir efficacy. However, the mechanisms controlling MSC proliferation and differentiation are not well understood. The work described in this proposal will investigate potential mechanisms by which MSCs regulate and accomplish their differentiation.
This study will compare the microRNA (miRNA) profiles of undifferentiated MSCs, differentiated MSCs and donor-matched control cells. MiRNAs are small RNAs that bind messenger RNAs affecting their translation and altering the protein complement of a cell. MiRNAs have been shown to regulate fundamental biological processes including differentiation of some stem cells, but to date no role has been described for miRNA in regulating MSC behaviour. An improved understanding MSC differentiation will improve MSC-based therapies, as well as raising the profile of European stem cell research. This will in turn improve European regenerative medicine, which will be of great economic importance as chronic degenerative conditions affect an increasing proportion of the population in aging Western societies.
Funding this proposal will aid the reintegration of an EU citizen who gained 10 years research experience in the US at prestigious research institutes and a Biotechnology company at the forefront of developing stem-cell based therapies. The applicant is returning to academic research in an Objective 1 area, the Borders and Western Region of Ireland, where she will be able to transfer her skills and knowledge to other researchers.
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