Reprogramming of somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) ranks among the most innovative biomedical developments of the past few years (Nobel Prize in Medicine 2012). iPS cells are obtained by the expression of specific transcription factors in fully mature somatic cells, which induces reprogramming into an embryonic stem cell (ES cell)-like pluripotent state. These iPS cells exhibit an essentially unlimited lifespan and can be expanded to large cell numbers. Additionally, iPS cells can be induced to differentiate into all cell types of the human body. Thus, iPS cell technology allows the generation of disease- and patient-specific cells for use in disease modelling and development of new therapies in medicine.
The project aims at the generation of disease- and patient-specific iPS cells for drug development and screening of neuropsychiatric disorders. Building on the expertise of leading forces in stem cell research and engineering technology in North Rhine Westphalia the consortium investigates and develops platform technologies for automated and standardized production of disease- and patient-specific iPS cells. Further to this innovative companion diagnostics for testing drug efficiency and safety are investigated.
CRISPR/Cas technology, one of the most important developments in the field of genetic engineering in the last twenty years, is also implemented in the project. CRISPR-Cas technology will be used for genome editing of the iPS cells to analyze the impact of a individual genomic alterations on disease.
We expect these newly developed diagnostics and therapy modalities to contribute improving quality of life and social participation of patients.