Royal Society award

March 11th, 2013

A Nottingham professor has received a prestigious award from the Royal Society to support his research into the development of regenerative medicines.

Kevin Shakesheff, Head of the University’s School of Pharmacy and Professor of Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering, is one of 25 new Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holders.

Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the scheme helps universities attract and retain outstanding scientists.

Professor Shakesheff said: “This award is a major boost at a time when we are very excited about the potential of stem cells as future medicines.”

The award recognises Professor Shakesheff’s expertise in developing new types of medicine that cause damaged or diseased tissues to regenerate. For diseases such as heart attacks, spinal cord damage and loss of blood vessels in long-term diabetes, there are no  treatments that reverse tissue loss.

Human tissues self-assemble as the embryo and foetus develops but this ability to form tissues is silenced by the cells of the body.

Professor Shakesheff added: “New therapies using stem cells as ‘living drugs’ are beginning to make a clinical impact in treatment and trials for the repair of cartilage, bone, heart, nerve and other tissues. However, there is a huge gap between the ability of an embryo to form a tissue and the efficacy of the best stem cell therapies in regenerative medicine. My research group is aiming to learn from the process of human tissue development and apply findings to the design of stem cell medicines.”

For example, the precise release of protein molecules drives the formation of early stage organs in the embryo. Advanced materials can replicate this type of control outside the embryo and accelerate the formation of blood vessels and complex human tissues.

Professor Shakesheff’s research groups are translating these advanced materials into products for the stem cell industry and for new therapies. Promising, but early, results in animal models have been published on stroke recovery, reformation of blood vessels, accelerating heart cell formation and constructing new bone.

The new award will support study of the embryo with the aim of informing the design of stem cell therapies that may transform medicine over the next 50 years.

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