Stem cells are at the centre of biomedical research. The development of human stem cell therapies will have to build on a safe and reliable supply of human stem cells which must be assured by cell banking. Currently, the isolation, identification and culture of stem cells are not standardised between laboratories, and reproducibility of protocols is limited. Today's banking approaches still rely on storing sources of stem cells rather than on banking of defined, well-characterised stem cell populations (both adult and embryonic). Cryopreservation of stem cells itself is not yet optimised and validated for the different cell types, and multiple cell biological and biophysical challenges remain to be addressed in order to define optimised cryopreservation protocols.
The problems currently limiting the routine application of stem cell banking with a therapeutic perspective will be addressed by the CRYSTAL project. The consortium will develop tools and optimised procedures to enable cryopreservation of different stem cell types and allow safe production of sufficient numbers of high-quality cells for future human therapy. This will comprise standardised protocols and tools for stem cell isolation, identification and culture, novel approaches to their cryopreservation (e.g. novel cryoprotectants, freezing in different conformations) and an automated quality control system for stem cell preparations.
Five stem cell research laboratories providing four different sources of adult (from cord blood, bone marrow and placenta) and human embryonic stem cells have teamed with two partners specialising in applied banking and fundamental cryobiological research. CRYSTAL is thus in a position to solve existing problems in an integrated, systematic approach and to provide standardised, reproducible methods and tools to advance therapeutic stem cell research in Europe.'
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