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Three million euros for European research initiative to develop new technology to regenerate the brain

Awards & Grants, ISF, STB,

Over the next four years, Helmholtz Munich participates in a European research consortium, aiming to develop an innovative technology that could boost the regeneration of neurons in diseases that currently have limited therapeutic options. The research project REGENERAR: Improving the Effectiveness and Safety of Epigenetic Editing in Brain Regeneration, will be funded with around three million euros (2 943 233) by the European Commission, more specifically by the European Innovation Council under the Pathfinder Open program, which funds interdisciplinary projects that open doors to innovative technological breakthroughs.

The scientists will use epigenetic tools to try to convert brain cells in patients into functional neurons. This research could pave the way for improved treatment of health problems such as stroke or neurodegenerative diseases, pathologies that are linked to the nervous system, affecting movement and causing loss of neurological functions.

Prof. Dr. Stefan H. Stricker, group leader of the Epigenetic Engineering Lab, Institute of Stem Cell Research is a critical member of this initiative, since REGENERAR aims to use epigenetic tools, generated at Helmholtz Munich, to reprogram certain brain cells into neurons. Basically, it uses what the human body already has, manipulating cells that have increased in number after the disease process, and transforming them into neuronal cells that are very important for brain function.

The six REGENERAR partners already met in Coimbra on March 22, to launch the project. The coordinator of this consortium, Prof. Lino Ferreira explains that "the central nervous system has minimal capacity for self-repair, and it is necessary to create alternatives to replace neurons lost as a result of injury, as happens, for example, in stroke or neurodegenerative diseases".

For stroke – which affects more than 15 million people worldwide every year and often causes significant limitations in routine activities such as walking or speaking – for example, "current treatments have focused on restoring blood flow to minimize tissue damage, and there are no approved pharmacological treatments that promote brain repair," explains the research leader.

Thus, recognizing these therapeutic limitations, this European consortium hopes to open a new path for the treatment of stroke and neurodegenerative pathologies by designing a nanoparticle formulation in the laboratory that could, in the future, reach clinical practice.

"This project was made possible by the amazing groundwork colleagues in Munich have made. Helmholtz Munich has a vast expertise concerning cell identity reprogramming with its Institute of Stem Cell Research and protein purification with the Institute of Structural Biology,” said Prof. Dr. Stefan H. Stricker, group leader at the Institute of Stem Cell Research.

Within the scope of this project, the team will conduct several rigorous safety tests, using advanced in vitro models, which are tests outside of living organisms, as well as in vivo toxicological studies, in accordance with good laboratory practices, to analyze the effectiveness of epigenetic reprogramming for clinical use. The scientists hope that this new technology can be validated in the laboratory by February 2028.

More infromation:

Visit the REGENERAR Website.