New prize-winning research highlights potential of immune intervention in improving regenerative medicine

March 12, 2020

Joana Neves is the 2019 grand prize winner of the Sartorius & Science Prize for Regenerating Medicine & Cell Therapy, for work in mice that offers a promising approach to improve the outcome of regenerative stem cell-based therapies aimed at delaying age-related degenerative diseases. The findings help to address a major roadblock imposed by the natural aging processes, which has limited the clinical application of regenerative medicine approaches to treat those most likely to suffer from chronic and often debilitating degenerative conditions - elderly patients. According to Neves, aging is associated with the loss of ability for many tissues to regenerate, largely due to the inflammatory environment common in aged and diseased tissues. Finding a way to resolve chronic inflammation and promote an environment supportive of repair could provide an efficient and effective way to improve the success of stem cell-based therapies. Using the fruit fly Drosphila as a model organism, Neves found that an evolutionarily conserved mechanism of tissue repair - the immune modulatory molecule MANF - could be harnessed to increase the success of regenerative therapies for retinal disease. The protein MAMF is critical in suppressing age-related inflammation while promoting tissue maintenance in young organisms. Using MAMF intervention alongside stem-cell based photoreceptor replacement therapies, Neves was able to greatly improve the restoration of vision in old, blind mice, highlighting the approaches' clinical utility. "[This] work is the proof of principle demonstration that immune modulatory interventions can be effective strategies to improve the success of regenerative therapies applied to aged and diseased organs," said Neves. Finalists for the prize were Arun Sharma, for his essay "Stem cells to help the heart," and Adam Wilkinson, for his essay "Hope for hematological diseases."

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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