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Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths. European researchers developed novel ex vivo three-dimensional organoid cultures that replicate genetic events in CRC, as tools to test novel therapeutics.
Maria Brandão de Vasconcelos, together with her colleague Filipa Matos Baptista, Henrique Veiga-Fernandes (ERC grantee), Diogo Fonseca Pereira and Sílvia Arroz Madeira, founded StemCell2MAX in 2015. The company is a biotechnology start-up, specialised in cell based therapies, including novel solutions to multiply the scarcely available blood stem cells, addressing an enormous demand for research and cancer treatment. StemCell2MAX technology is based on Prof. Veiga-Fernandes's ground-breaking discoveries in hematopoietic stem cell biology.
Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."
An ERC-funded project has significantly increased understanding of the crucial role that microorganisms in the gut play in maintaining health. The findings have since led to a patent, as well as a follow-on project that could one day steer the way to new targeted treatments for diseases, including cancer.
Through her work with the fruit fly Drosophila santomea, Dr Virginie Orgogozo aims to answer one of the most challenging questions of modern evolutionary biology: how do observable characteristics change between species and yet remain stable in a given species?
Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs) are blood cells located in the bone marrow. These cells are extensively used in research to develop treatments for many severe diseases, including HIV and multiple sclerosis, and their transplant is a key therapy for certain types of cancer like leukemia and multiple myeloma. However, the use of HSCs is seriously constrained by their limited availability since growing them in the lab does not produce very large quantities. There is therefore an urgent need for methods allowing scientists to multiply HSCs, without losing any of their properties.
With her degree in biology, Dr Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla left Mexico and embarked on an international career in epigenetics. She completed her PhD at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and then moved to Cambridge University. In 2006 she joined IGBMC in Strasbourg working as a group leader. She has just been appointed Director of the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells of the Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich. Supported by an ERC grant, she studies the mechanisms controlling embryonic cellular plasticity with the aim of shedding new light on today's fertility issues. In this interview she shares her story as a non-European scientist in Europe.
Cellular regeneration allows wound healing in humans but in other vertebrates such as salamanders, it goes a step further: they can regenerate their limbs in their full complexity of bones, nerves, muscle and skin and can do it over and over again. Prof. Elly Tanaka studies these amazing capacities and, mirroring the process, has successfully grown a piece of mouse spinal cord in vitro.
For the first time ever, two ERC grantees, Prof. Luca G. Guidotti and Dr Matteo Iannacone, have observed in vivo how specific white blood cells, so-called cytotoxic T lymphocytes, identify, target and attack liver cells that are infected with the hepatitis B virus. To witness these immune cells in action in real time, the two scientists developed advanced, dynamic imaging techniques. An estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B worldwide. This discovery, published today in the scientific journal Cell, opens new horizons for the development of novel therapies.
Vaccination has achieved huge success in controlling many devastating infectious diseases. However, there are still many such diseases, or ‘pathogens’, against which we cannot generate life-long protective immunity. On the eve of Croatia’s accession to the EU, Professor Stipan Jonjic’s ERC-funded research into new vaccines to offer better protection– is already underway. Prof Jonjic is the first Croatian ERC grantee to base his project in Croatia.
Cancer treatment and cure remains one of the main challenges of modern medicine, with more than 12 million people around the world diagnosed every year. ERC funded research, which has already shown initial positive results, proposes a new approach to define the role of stem cells in the onset and development of skin cancer. This innovative method could potentially lead to a drug that may stop the growth of skin cancer.