UK-Japan partnership to explore blood stem cell expansion

News | Posted on Thursday 17 September 2020

Researchers at York are to explore new advances in human blood stem cell research with partners in Japan and Cambridge.

Dr David Kent from the Department of Biology and Professor Bertie Göttgens (University of Cambridge) have been awarded £800,000 by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in collaboration with the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED). 

The project - Human Blood Stem Cell Expansion: Empowering New Technology for Stem Cell Medicine - is aimed at expanding the number of fully functioning human blood stem cells that can be maintained outside the body. These cells are used in procedures such as bone marrow transplantation, blood transfusions and gene therapies to help tackle diseases such as leukaemia and rare genetic disorders, and could also alleviate the need for blood cell donation.


Dr Kent will work with partners at the Universities of Tokyo and Cambridge to form a UK-Japan network of researchers in the area of blood stem cell expansion.

The award is one of eight to support regenerative medicine collaborations between researchers in the UK and Japan sponsored by the MRC and AMED.

Dr Kent said the research would focus on ways to maintain fully functioning blood stem cells for substantial periods of time outside the body and to understand the genes and proteins driving this process. 

“Our recent advances in stem cell expansion technology put us on the cusp of breaking through this decades-old barrier. It opens up a huge number of experimental possibilities that will allow us to uncover the drivers of stem cell fate choice outside the body, something that is incredibly important to understand in the context of stem cell transplantation, cellular therapy, and regenerative medicine.”

He added: “We are extremely grateful to the MRC (UK) and AMED (Japan) funding organisations for recognising that this project will only work through combining the specialist expertise of the researchers in both countries and are looking forward to building a network of UK-Japanese researchers that will last well beyond this funding."


Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair at the Medical Research Council and Dr Yoshinao Mishima, President at the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development jointly said:

“The UK and Japan are world leaders in stem cell and regenerative medicine research. Past pioneering work in our countries has had a transformative impact and has revolutionised the potential for innovative approaches to medicine. It is timely to bring our world leading groups together in their efforts to tackle the same therapeutic goals.”

The University of York has a strong commitment to research in the fields of immunology, haematology and infection through the York Biomedical Research Institute.

Read more about the UK-Japan regenerative medicine research partnerships