Work performed in our group is directed towards the use of stem and progenitor cells for tissue engineering of cartilage, bone and cardiovascular tissues. In the process, we aim to unravel molecular mechanisms for cell differentiation and de-differentiation, and to understand the interactions between cells, extracellular matrix and biomaterials. In addition, we are interested in the possible role for microRNAs as biomarkers and in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Stem cells are immature cells with great potential in protocols for cell therapy. Human multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) may be isolated from the bone marrow, adipose tissue and several other sites. They have been shown to differentiate to osteoblasts, chondrocytes, adipocytes, myoblasts and other lineages, thereby making them extremely interesting in protocols for tissue engineering. We are working to identify and characterize uncultured stromal stem cells from different tissues. The MSC are cultured in vitro in two- and three-dimensional culture systems. Cultured cells are examined for their usefulness in various tissue engineering strategies. Uncultured and cultured cells will be tested for their ability to dedifferentiate, i.e. change to a more immature cell type. If this can be achieved, we may be able to alter their fate, thus producing functional, differentiated cells of other lineages. In order for such cells to be useful for cell therapy, the molecular mechanisms of differentiation, dedifferentiation and cell fate decisions of MSC need to be characterized in detail.