Aston University and Zyoxel to assess the safety of stem cell therapies


Neural degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease have a huge and increasing impact on an aging society; emotionally, socially and financially. Regenerative medicine (treatment with stem cells) is the most promising approach to successful treatment of these currently incurable degenerative diseases.

The safety of these applied cells, biomaterials and stimulating chemicals must be tested and guaranteed. Currently, animal testing is the gold standard for stem cell safety testing; however it is costly, time consuming and of questionable relevance to humans.

In a new £144,000 project funded by the Technology Strategy Board Regenerative Medicine Programme, Aston University has teamed up with Zyoxel, a cell culture products and services business, to develop alternative testing procedures.

The project will use cells, developed by Aston University, which are nearly identical to those in our brains. To make these cells grow in three dimensions, as our brains are of course, the team at Aston are using Zyoxel's TissueFlex® perfusion microbioreactor system. The team can then test the safety of therapies aimed at neural degenerative diseases in a three-dimensional environment.

Oxford-based Zyoxel's main commercial interest is in the design and sales of bioreactors, which are used in the culture of human and animal cells. The company's products are intended to be purchased by academic and commercial laboratories in the areas of drug development, toxin evaluation and molecular biology as it applies to cell culture.

The collaboration with prof Michael Coleman and Dr Eric Hill at Aston University has allowed Zyoxel to explore new applications for it's perfused microbioreactor technology."

The role of Aston University' Mechanisms of Toxicity Group, headed by Professor Mike Coleman, was to provide insights into the academic applications of the bioreactor systems and how the bioreactor designs might be improved or tailored to academic applications in specific areas. Prof. Coleman's group has extensive experience in these areas and is in an ideal position to provide relevant input into the targeting of the Zyoxel bioreactor concept to its most appropriate commercially successful niche.

Professor Coleman said, "We believe that this is the most advanced model of human brain tissue that can be produced in the laboratory. With the development and eventual application of such models, it is believed that successful stem cell therapies can be brought closer to reality in the clinic, providing beneficial treatment for our most feared and devastating neurological conditions."

Zyoxel Principal Biomedical Engineer, Dr David Hughes said, “The collaboration with Prof Michael Coleman and Dr Eric Hill at Aston University has allowed Zyoxel to explore new applications for it's perfused microbioreactor technology. This is an opportunity to combine Aston's expertise in Life Sciences research with Zyoxel's technology and commercial perspective. The work has been funded through the BBSRC and Technology Strategy Board. We have found Aston University to be an excellent partner, open to opportunities to collaborate with business and commercialise technology. The Business Partnership Unit were very helpful in preparing funding applications.”

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