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Paracrine and transcriptional control of cell differentiation in organ development and repair (DevRepair)

Research project P7/07 (Research action P7)


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This P/VII network DEVREPAIR emanates from a new network in P/V carried over in P/VI where developmental biologists have studied in a highly interactive setting the paracrine and transcriptional regulation of embryogenesis, with focus on selected signaling systems (such as TGFβ family signaling) and processes (such as early development and blood vessel biology). The major objective of DEVREPAIR is to develop a 5-year basic research program that will reinforce the links between studies on embryonic development and the repair of selected adult tissues and organs. The research program in DEVREPAIR is carried out by 8 partners from 4 Belgian and 2 Dutch universities, many partners also being associated with local satellite teams (11 in total) that in a number of cases are young and emerging teams.

DEVREPAIR has decided to bring together molecular embryologists who have confirmed their strong commitment for moving their research towards regenerative biology with stem cell researchers who fully exploit the new possibilities to change cell state (pluripotency, differentiation) and fate (differentiation versus dedifferentiation) by forced transfection of transcription factors or use thorough comparative analysis of differentiation potential of normal and diseased progenitor cells at the molecular, sometimes genome-wide level. Other new teams have strong expertise in the establishment and use of animal models for injury repair where cell-based repair of injured or diseased tissue or cell types in their multi-cell type niche can be studied through reactivation of an endogenous stem/progenitor cell compartment or via transplantation of candidate cell types/states initiated and first expanded in cell culture. Last but not least, strong ‘omics’ and imaging/cell manipulation technology platforms were established, which are absolutely necessary for this type of interdisciplinary research and cannot all be present within one single department or even university. Many of the teams in DEVREPAIR can claim they are positioned in 2 of the 4 areas (molecular embryology, stem cell research, animal models for injury repair, technology, respectively) mentioned above.

DEVREPAIR now proposes an unprecedented effort in Belgium to create a virtual basic research institute of the necessary large critical mass to line-up and integrate these four areas mentioned above. Overall, it was decided to join expertise in specific areas of developmental biology, stem/progenitor cell research, molecular cell biology, biochemistry and genomics, cell-cell communication, cell adhesion and migration, signal transduction, regulation of gene expression, and tissue repair, making DEVREPAIR an exquisite multi-disciplinary basic research network and a perfect multi-university context where also young researchers from each of the participating teams will be trained as multi-disciplinary scientsts of the future.

DEVREPAIR has structured its work program in 5 work packages (WPs) that fully illustrate what DEVREPAIR is about, i.e. basic research studying stem and progenitor cell identity and differentiation in cell culture (WP1), taking molecular signaling and lineage restriction and cell differentiation in developing vertebrate embryos (mainly mouse, zebrafish and frog) (WP2) and adult stem cell compartments in health and disease (WP3), and further analysis of the principles towards activated stem cells and their multi-cellular niche in injured tissues (WP4). Each of these WPs is strongly dependent on use of technologies brought together strategically in WP5, ranging from ‘omics’ to gene/protein detection and cell lineage tracing in vivo. This structure, and the choices of cell types, tissues/organs and animal models, is introduced in more detail in the project outline.


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