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MRC's work in regenerative medicine

Promoting stem cell research and regenerative medicine is a priority for the MRC and has been ever since the field first emerged. We remain at the forefront of regenerative medicine research.

In the 1980s we funded Sir Martin Evans’ Nobel Prize-winning work to isolate and genetically manipulate embryonic stem cells for the first time. We also funded Nobel Prize winner Sir John Gurdon who discovered that mature cells such as those present in skin, could be reprogrammed to become pluripotent (able to make all other cells in the body). Today our scientists are investigating the use of stem cells to treat blindness, wound healing and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

The MRC first established specific funding mechanisms for innovative regenerative medicine projects over 10 years ago when the field was quite new. At the time, we wanted to enable researchers to tackle some of the challenges unique to regenerative medicine, such as working out how to grow uniform cells for patient administration. Ultimately, the funding schemes were to help transition research from an academic environment towards translation into the clinic. Over the past decade, the UK regenerative medicine research field has matured significantly and now our research boards and translation panel continue to support exciting research projects in the area.

 As well as supporting individual teams of scientists, we have invested in MRC research centres, units and institutes across the UK such as those in Edinburgh, London, Oxford and Cambridge.

In addition, along with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) we launched the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform (UKRMP) which is now in its second phase, to facilitate leading-edge research across scientific disciplines, and ensure the work translates into clinical and commercially viable uses.

Our work in regenerative medicine is not limited just to the UK. We have collaborated with the US, China and Japan on stem cell research. For example, together with the Californian Institute of Regenerative Medicine in the US, we supported critical work in the approach to treat age-related macular degeneration and acute myeloid leukaemia. We continue to help the international stem cell community share resources and establish best practice.