Coffee Meeting with Scientists – University of Copenhagen

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19 October 2016

Coffee Meeting with Scientists

Outreach and Public Engagement

On Tuesday, October 18, 2016 a group of young type one diabetic patients came over to DanStem accompanied by Dr. Tore Vigård a clinical scientist from Lund University specialized in Preventive Pediatrics.

Early afternoon 15 enthusiastic teenagers arrived to DanStem where over ten scientists welcomed them ready to interact; tell about their scientific research, play a stem cell game, take them to the labs, and not less important, answer questions.

DanStem is involved with ample outreach activities, yet, this meeting was unique since it gave the scientists and the patients the opportunity to interact, focusing on stem cell research done at the center and the potential of stem cell research in future treatment of diabetes. 

About diabetes:

Diabetes is a common life-long condition and the number of children being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is increasing. The symptoms can be controlled but there is no cure. There are currently no proven treatments for diabetes using stem cells. However, if beta cells could be made in the lab, it could solve the problem of obtaining the right number and quality of cells to replace the patients’ missing or dysfunctional beta cells through islet transplantation.

Diabetes Research at DanStem

In BasicStem’s Diabetes research programme scientists focus on how stem cells differentiate and how a cell’s fate in an organism is determined. Several groups use the development of the pancreas and the specification of insulin-secreting beta cells as a model to answer their research questions.

In DanStem’s TranStem programme the group of Professor Henrik Semb focuses on the translation of the basic research discoveries into new human pluripotent stem cell-based treatment of T1D. Currently the group is testing newly developed scalable differentiation protocols for functional insulin-producing beta cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells. To address the future needs of stem cell-derived beta cells they are developing new strategies for expanding the progenitor cells that normally give rise to beta cells. By newly developed methods for isolating these progenitors the overall strategy for expandable production of beta cells for future cell therapy in T1D include the following steps: 1) isolation of pancreatic progenitors, 2) expansion of the progenitors, 3) methods for freezing/thawing of expanded progenitors, and 4) differentiation of thawed progenitors into functional beta cells. Once these steps have been achieved all protocols will be adapted to cGMP conditions, which will be the basis for obtaining approval for future phase 1/2 trials. The objective is to establish a stem cell-based cell therapy program at University of Copenhagen covering all relevant steps from bench to patient.

DanStem Participants:

Christy Prawiro: PhD student (The Semb Group), Dror Sever: Postdoc (The Grapin-Botton Group) Henrik Semb: DanStem’s executive director and group leader, Hjalte List Larsen: PhD student (The Grapin-Botton Group), Jacqueline Ameri: Assistant Professor (The Semb Group), Jonas van Cuyl Kuylenstierna: PhD student (The Serup Group), Katie Anderson: Postdoc (The Brickman group) Maja Borup Kjær Petersen:  PhD student (The Grapin-Botton Group), Maya Friis Kjærgaard: PhD student (The Semb Group), Palle Serup: Group Leader, Silja Heilmann: Postdoc (The Semb Group) Simone Wenkel: Research Coordinator