Stem Cell Medicine research key programs

Program 1: Disease Modelling & Drug Screening using Stem Cells

What is disease modelling using stem cells?

Disease modelling takes a patient’s cells, creates stem cells and develops them into tissues and mini-organs, such as kidney, blood, brain, or heart, in the laboratory. By doing this, we create a ‘model’ of their disease – often referred to as a ‘disease in a dish’ – to help us understand what things have gone wrong and predict how the disease will progress in an individual patient. The better our understanding of a disease, the better we can recognise how to prevent, treat or cure it. 

What is drug screening using stem cells?

By modelling a patient’s ‘disease in a dish’, we’re able to test a range of drugs on their tissues to find the most effective treatments and cures for that patient. Our Disease Modelling Facility capitalises on the ability of stem cells to generate large numbers of normal and diseased human cells in the laboratory, on which novel drug compounds can then be applied to determine their toxicity and efficacy. This initiative will take us a step closer to providing effective precision and personalised treatments to patients, provide a new avenue for pharmaceutical companies to discover and test drugs for clinical use, and reduce the need for animal experimentation. 

Program 2: Cellular Therapies & Regenerating Organs using Stem Cells

What is cellular therapy using stem cells?

Cellular therapies involve the injection or transplantation of human cells from a donor (potentially from the patient) to repair and regenerate damaged or malfunctioning tissue. Some types of cellular therapy are already standard procedure in medical practice, for example, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (also known as a bone marrow transplant) is an established and often curative treatment for a variety of blood cancers and disorders.  Across the globe, including at MCRI Stem Cell Medicine, researchers are working toward delivering the next generation of stem cell cellular therapies.

What is tissue regeneration using stem cells?

In some cases, delivering a small number of cells or tissue into a patient may not be an effective treatment; in cases such as heart or kidney failure, whole organs may need to be replaced.  MCRI Stem Cell Medicine conducts research into approaches for the bioengineering of replacement organs.  The tissue to create these bioengineered organs are grown in the lab from human-derived induced pluripotent stem cells, and stem cell scientists work closely with bioengineers to create 3D organ structures.  The hope is that bioengineered organs may ultimately provide treatments for many conditions, including heart disease, bone disease and kidney disease.