BasicStem – University of Copenhagen

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The Novo Nordisk Foundation Section for Basic Stem Cell Biology (BasicStem) consists of two research programmes and a National collaboration project. The two research programmes are:

  • Stem cells and developmental biology
  • Cancer Stem Cells

Stem cells and Developmental Biology has the overall objective of understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms that govern the ability of progenitor cells to both self-renew and differentiate into mature cells such as insulin-producing beta cells, dopaminergic neurons or liver cells, both in the normal embryo and from pluripotent stem cells in vitro. The understanding of these mechanisms will form a crucial platform for developing future cell-based therapies. By producing beta cells from stem cells, researchers will potentially create a source of new beta cells for diabetes patients, helping them to achieve a better regulation of their blood sugar and perhaps even independence from insulin drugs.

The research program involves eight PIs Henrik Semb, Anne Grapin-Botton, Joshua Brickman, Palle Serup, Elke OberElisabetta Ferretti, Jakub Sedzinski, and Agnete Kirkeby as well as their respective research groups.

Cancer Stem Cells builds on recent discoveries of stem cells in tumours. These findings have given rise to a new model for cancer development, where cancer stem cells are the truly malignant cells in the tumour and therefore are targets for therapy. The program aims at establishing a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms leading to cancer and how cancer stem cells and stem cells contribute to this. Ultimately, the goal is to identify and validate new targets for the development of anti-cancer stem cell-based therapy.

The program places significant attention onto research in leukaemia and breast cancer. Leukaemia was the first cancer type, where cancer stem cells were demonstrated to be present. The Center seeks to transfer insights from this research into treatment of these cancers, where the scientists at the Center have considerable expertise.

The research program is headed by Ole William Petersen, Kristian Helin and Bo Porse.

Four National collaboration projects are established with researchers at different Danish universities. These collaborating groups are headed by Torben Heick Jensen, University of Aarhus and Moustapha Kassem, Ditte Caroline Andersen, and Susanne Mandrup from University of Southern Denmark.