Background
Neural Stem Cells
Stem cells can be manufactured for human use for the first time in Ireland, following Irish Medicines Board licensing of a new facility in Galway.

NUI Galway’s Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland aims to culture adult stem cells to tackle conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and associated conditions.

The centre, which is one of less than half a dozen in Europe authorised for stem cell manufacture, has been developed by researchers at NUIG’s regenerative medicine institute.

Stem cells serve as the body’s repair mechanism. They can be isolated from tissues such as bone marrow and fat, and cultured in laboratory settings.

More controversially, embryonic stem cells have been highly valued for their ability to turn into any type of cell in the body, but scientists can now use reprogrammed adult skin cells to create a stem cell that is very similar to embryonic versions.

The centre will be opened today by Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock, at a time when the Health Research Board and Science Foundation Ireland have approved funding there for clinical trials on using mesenchymal stem cells – cells that can differentiate into a variety of types – for treatment of critical limb ischemia, a condition associated with diabetes that can result in amputation.

The new centre’s director Prof Tim O’Brien explained that the stem cells must be grown in the laboratory to generate sufficient quantities, following their isolation from the bone marrow of adult donors, and the facility will help Ireland to develop therapies for a broad range of clinical problems which do not have effective treatments today.

“It will also allow us to translate discoveries from the basic stem cell research programme led by Prof Frank Barry at the Science Foundation Ireland-funded REMEDI to the clinic, and to be competitive for grant funding under the Horizon 2020 programme of the EU,” he said.

Stem cell research in Ireland is in what scientists have described as a “legislative lacuna”, but this relates to use of embryonic stem cells and does not in any way inhibit the use of adult stem cells, Prof O’Brien explained.

“We can only engage in clinical trials with clinical authorisation from the IMB and approval from the hospital ethics committee, and we are currently seeking such approval for clinical trials,”he said.

“The license to manufacture is an essential pre requisite to seek permission to undertake clinical trials. The license certificate must be included with the clinical trial authorisation application.”

NUIG president Dr Jim Browne said the centre develops Galway’s role as a “med tech hub of global standing”, while Irish Medical Devices Association board member John O’Dea has pointed to the lucrative revenue to be earned from regenerative medicine products, valued at about €1.3 billion in 2013 and with a 40 per cent sales growth last year.

Some 70 per cent of pharmaceutical companies are working on regenerative medicine therapies – an area described as a crossover between biology and engineering – and NUIG estimates that there are over 1,900 cell therapy clinical trials under way globally.

(Report taken from the Irish Times)

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New research from the National Children’s Research Center, funded by the Children’s Medical Research Foundation (CMRF), has identified a link between child obesity and decreased effectiveness in the innate immune system among obese children.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed that one of the most important immune cells in the innate immune system – the invariant natural killer T cell – was much reduced in number and much less effective at doing its basic job in obese children.

According to Dr Declan Cody, senior paediatrician said, “This cell – the invariant natural killer T cell – has been described as a sensor and manager of inflammation, and when deficient or defective has been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer, so to see it already disappearing in children who are obese, is really worrying for their future risk”.

The study included 49 children from 6 to 16 years of age and showed that the children are switching on two types of genes that have been shown to be involved in type 2 diabetes and heart disease in adults. “These are very disturbing but fascinating findings” added Professor Carlos Blanco, head of the National Childrens Research Center, which funded the research.

Professor Blanco added: “The findings ultimately may allow us to predict those children most at risk of developing adult disease and therefore to target our interventions. In addition this work shows that the process of developing type 2 diabetes is well and truly underway at a genetic level in children as young as 6 years of age who are allowed to become obese”.

Professor Donal O’Shea, lead author on the study and Chairs the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland policy group on obesity.  He has presented the findings to the European Union Ministers for Health and The Coca Cola Company and said “These findings must be used to inform individuals, public policy and industry behaviour when it comes to our patterns of physical activity and food and drink consumption which are the main drivers of weight in children”.