New stem cell collaboration for ERIBA

01 December 2015


When two renowned institutes decide to combine their specialties to make a difference in the scientific world, this can only be supported. That idea was recognized by ZonMw , who recently honoured the research project proposal “Functional Expansion and Megakaryocyte Differentiation of Hematopoietic Stem Cells “. The project is a collaboration between a research team from the ERIBA Laboratory of Ageing Biology and Stem Cells led by Prof. dr. Gerald de Haan, and a team from Beijing Institute of Genomics (BIG) led by Prof. dr. Qianfei Wang. With the ZonMw grant, a four year collaboration is initiated.


Hematopoietic Stem Cell (HSC) transplantation plays an important role in the treatment of certain types of cancer associated with blood and bone marrow. This specific type of stem cell can differentiate into any type of blood cell and is mainly located in the bone marrow. The project aims to first develop a method to generate and expand HSCs and subsequently to differentiate them in vitro into blood platelets. The ability to control this process could eventually lead to increased used of stem cells and their derivates for transplantation and transfusion purposes.

However, both aims come with significant challenges. In the first step the main problem is the ex vivo generation of functional hematopoietic stem cells. HSCs  have the tendency to rapidly differentiate  and lose their (transplantable) stem cell potential in culture. In the second step, the controlled ex vivo production of functional mature platelets from HSCs proves similarly difficult.

The project brings together two teams of researchers that have a well-established record in the field of stem cell research, each with their own expertise. The de Haan lab has discovered a method to amplify transplantable hematopoietic stem cells from mice by overexpression of a single micro-RNA. The Wang lab has developed technology to produce megakaryocytes, precursors of platelets from primitive stem and progenitor cells. The combined effort of these labs seems like a recipe for success.

The upcoming four years will consist of hard work for both teams and simultaneously form a solid base for future collaboration. For ERIBA, this also means the addition of a PhD student to team de Haan. Keep an eye on the vacancies section of this website for more information.

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