24 March 2019

Olav Thon Foundation prize to ICMM/DanStem professor Moustapha Kassem


Two of the prize winners of the Olav Thon Foundation are Professor Moustapha Kassem and Assistant Professor Abbas Jafari Kermani from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (ICMM) and The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Biology (DanStem) at the University of Copenhagen, who together with a research colleague at the University of Oslo has received NOK 10 million (DKK 7.7 million).

The grant was awarded to their research on bone generation, hoping that in the future it will be able to alleviate, among other things, osteoporosis using skeletal stem cells.

The research project, which is a collaboration between universities in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, is aiming to improve the body's bone regeneration by means of skeletal stem cells.

"So far, effective regeneration of bone has not been achieved by implanting skeletal stem cells for the benefit of many people worldwide who suffer from bone diseases, but with our new approach, we hope tp activate the body's own skeletal stem cells, so that the bones can regenerate and thus increase the patient's ability to heal, ”says Abbas Jafari Kermani.

He points out that one in three women and every fifth man over the age of 50 is at risk of developing fractures of the bones due to osteoporosis, and that the Scandinavian countries have a record in hip fractures due to osteoporosis. This and other diseases that can weaken the ability of the bones to regenerate, such as arthritis and diabetes, affect millions of people on their prime and quality of life.

Abbas Jafari Kermani hopes that his research will allow a more effective treatment for the benefit of the patients, but admits that there is still a long way to go until an effective cure is a reality.

Increased bone regeneration by in vivo targeting of skeletal stem cells.

Project Manager: Professor Moustapha Kassem, University of Southern Denmark. Staff: Professor Rigmor Solberg, Professor Harald T. Johansen, University of Oslo.

About the research project

This application proposes to increase bone regeneration in mice through in vivo targeting of their own mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) using pharmacology and tissue engineering approaches. The researchers will test the new hypothesis that inhibition of legumain, a cysteine ​​protease, will improve the regeneration of the skeleton, determine the molecular mechanism of legumain regulation in bone regeneration, and determine whether circulating legumain can be a biomarker of bone marrow osteoporosis. The research team has a leguminem at hand (MP-L01), but also suggests state-of-the-art silico design and virtual screening of small molecule inhibitors. Functional scaffolds containing inhibitors will be introduced into critical size defects in the skull of mice, a model for non-healing fractures. The effects of the scaffolds will be quantified following transplanted hMSC expressing luciferase by imaging the type IVIS Spectrum in vivo. Finally, they will determine the utility of legumain as a predictor of osteoporosis and fracture risk, through a study of 600 well-characterized elderly patients who have been followed for 5 years. This is a mechanistic study with a high probability of translation.

See more information about Olav Thon Foundation: https://olavthonstiftelsen.no/english/