UCL Therapeutic Innovation Networks


Webinar Overview: Next Generation Regenerative Medicine Therapies for the Brain & Eye

This article presents an overview of the Regenerative Medicine TIN webinar, 'Next Generation Regenerative Medicine Therapies for the Brain & Eye', held on Wednesday 30th September 2020.

30 September 2020

On Wednesday 30th September 2020, the Regenerative Medicines TIN presented the first seminar in a series of events to showcase collaborative projects involving regenerative medicine therapeutics at UCL. 

Professor Julie Daniels, Professor of Regenerative Medicine and Cellular Therapy at the Institute of Ophthalmology and Co-Chair of the Regenerative Medicines TIN described her research towards developing anti-scarring therapies in the eye, where currently, there are around 8million people who have been blinded by such diseases. Professor Daniel’s approach involves the regenerative capabilities of stem cells found in the outer, epithelial layer of the eye. Injury to this part of the eye can cause stromal scarring – where the wrong type of epithelium moves over the eye to cause sight issues.  

Imaging the limbus

In a collaborative approach with various partners including colleagues at partner Biomedical Research Centre, Moorfields Eye Hospital to identify the location of the stem cells, in partnership with industry, Tap Biosystems, to develop the UCL intellectual property and with the support of the UCL Translational Research Office to help secure various grants from the MRC and Innovate UK, Professor Daniels’ team have been able to move the project along and have now completed validation studies. 

In the talk, Professor Daniels was respectfully honest in admitting there have been a number of challenges faced along the translational pathway and shared tips to overcome these, but overall it has been an enjoyable process where the interdisciplinary team have worked to motivate each other and overcome each hurdle with passion and determination. 

Next, we heard from Dr Pascale Guillot from the Institute of Women’s Health who presented her groups journey towards building an in vitro model of disease to identify new therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative diseases. The system uses human cells to mimic pathology, demonstrating physiological relevance and translational value with the intention of using the data from the organ-on-a-chip model to go to clinical trial. The system has been used to study various applications, including blood-brain barriers and cultivation of cerebral organoids. 

Human in vitro model

The final talk of the seminar was from Professor Rick Livesey, Professor of Stem Cell Biology at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, whose work involves engineering 2D and 3D human neural systems. Professor Livesey’s group is most interested in tissue engineering of the cerebal cortex, where he discussed the process involved in ‘replaying’ development of the cerebral cortex in the brain from pluripotent stem cells. Alongside academic responsibilities, Professor Livesey is also the scientific founder of two biotechnology companies that use stem cell systems for drug discovery and R&D, and offered the audience opportunity to discuss this as a method of how academics may get involved in translation. 

multicellular models

Common themes between all talks seemed to be 1) that stem cells provide a toolkit for translational studies of human brain development and disease and 2) the emphasis of translation being a truly collaborative discipline requiring multiple partners to succeed. 

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