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Stem Cell Research Center Planned in Szczecin
August 26, 2010   
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A center for stem cell research will be established in the northwestern city of Szczecin in a project managed by Prof. Mariusz Ratajczak at the Pomeranian Medical University.

The center will coordinate stem cell research across Central and Eastern Europe, according to the researchers at the Pomeranian Medical University, who have secured more than zl.45 million in European Union funding for the project.

Stem cells are responsible for the regeneration and rejuvenation of tissues and organs. Their properties come in handy in regenerative medicine. Stem cells have been used for decades in hematopoietic transplants to treat leukemia. Attempts are now being made to use stem cells to regenerate damaged heart muscle, though for the time being such procedures are still in the experimental phase. Neurologists are also pinning a lot of hope on stem cells. They want to use them to regenerate nervous cells damaged by stroke. Doctors specializing in diabetes say stem cells could help regenerate pancreatic islets as well as damaged liver tissue.

The Pomeranian Medical University will carry out the project together with the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, the Medical Center of Postgraduate Education in Warsaw, the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw, and the University of Silesia in Katowice. The Polish partners will work with a stem cell research center in Louisville, Kentucky, in the United States.

A total of 150 jobs will be created for research workers, physicians and biologists as part of the project nationwide. Of this, around 40 people will be employed in Szczecin. A special association of regenerative medicine will also be established to enable the researchers to share their experiences.

No ethical problems involved

“The association will develop standards for stem cell therapies,” says Ratajczak. “Since regenerative medicine is a young discipline, these standards have not yet been set. In our work, we will be using exclusively non-embryonic stem cells. So there will be no ethical problem involved and no accusations to the effect that we supposedly destroy human life.”

Ratajczak has made a name for himself in the international research community after he discovered adult stem cells in mice bone marrow and human umbilical cord blood, aided by a team of researchers at the University of Louisville. These cells are able to differentiate like embryonic stem cells, Ratajczak says, adding that the discovery enables regenerative medicine to develop without the need to harvest cells from embryos.

Anna Miszczyk
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