Hedgehog signalling is a key developmental pathway initially identified in Drosophila. In mammals, intercellular signalling is driven by three homologues of the hedgehog protein and is reportedly essential for the appropriate development of many organs. Hedgehog signalling is also emerging as a key pathway in many diseases including chronic and degenerative diseases like faulty skin wound repair and Parkinson's (PD). With this in mind, the EU-funded HEALING network set out to train the next generation of stem cell researchers in multidisciplinary but complementary areas. The consortium brought together seven leading academic and research institutions, and two biotech companies to form a solid training network. The scientific objectives of the network included delineating the molecular mechanisms that regulate Hedgehog signalling and developing specific small molecule agonists. The rationale behind these modulator molecules was that the manipulation of aberrant Hedgehog signalling could cure many diseases or stimulate tissue regeneration. The network organised summer schools, two international meetings, and courses in business and bioethics as well as exchange visits in participating labs. A total of 13 early-stage researchers and four experienced researchers were included in this training scheme They worked towards achieving the project objectives under the supervision of renowned European scientists. On one level, the HEALING network provided novel insight into the regulation of Hedgehog signalling as well its potential manipulation for therapeutic purposes. At another level, the consortium successfully trained young researchers to become leading scientists in Hedgehog signalling, stem cells and regenerative medicine. Given the increasing number of European citizens who suffer from debilitating diseases, the HEALING findings will help towards the development of novel regenerative drugs.
Endogenous stem cell, regenerative medicine, Hedgehog signalling, network, training, drugs