Initiators: Elly Tanaka (Vienna), Federico Calegari (Dresden), Ana Martin-Villalba (Heidelberg) and Thomas Braun (Bad Nauheim)
Many tissues in our body contain stem cells required for tissue homeostasis or repair in response to injuries or diseases. Yet, the ability of vertebrates to repair tissue damage differs significantly, which might be due to selective pressure during evolution favouring rapid healing in comparison to slow regenerative processes allowing reconstitution ad integrum. As a consequence many regenerative responses in mammals result in “defect healing” leaving behind a compromised organ. In contrast, other vertebrates mainly fish and amphibian species have developed means to replace even lost body structures. Despite significant progress the cellular and molecular basis for the different regenerative potential in distinct species is mostly unknown. Likewise, it remains more or less enigmatic why mammals retain a remarkable regenerative potential during embryonic development that is lost in adult life. Tissue regeneration involving expansion and differentiation of stem cells has often been compared to embryonic development but significant differences are apparent demanding a more thorough analysis.
A (incomplete) list of open questions comprises:
- How can we promote regeneration?
- How can me manipulate maintenance, expansion, and differentiation of stem cells?
- What is the developmental origin of different stem cell types?
- What factors at injury sites might prevent regenerative response?
- What are the differences and similarities between embryonic development and regeneration?
- Why do different organisms show dramatic differences in regenerative potential?
Development is the process of growing from an embryo into an adult organism. During development, stem and progenitor cells are given a series of cues to form all the cell types in different tissues in the right numbers and correct spatial location to give a fully functional animal. The understanding which signals orchestrate stem and progenitor cells to form complex tissues has been an incredible rich source of knowledge. An important mission of the GSCN is to support basic research in Developmental Biology, as this field is essential for a better understanding of the origin and function of stem cells. Clearly, a thorough knowledge of the developmental biology of stem cells is a prerequisite for any therapeutic approach.
The GSCN has been formed to bring together scientists working on tissue stem cells, regenerative organisms, and those studying developmental biology, in order to identify key strategies to elicit tissue and organ growth and regeneration.