University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Stem cells to settle in Copenhagen

Copenhagen to be the home of Denmark’s first stem cell facility in January. It’s about time, say researchers

We may be one small step closer to a cure for cancer and diabetes. This is the hope of Copenhagen scientists now that the University has gained enough funding to open Denmark’s first stem cell research center.

The DKK 415 million facility, which will be located in newly renovated buildings in the Panum Institute, will focus on both research of stem cells and stem cell production – a combination rarely seen at other institutions. The centre’s future leader, Professor Henrik Semb, says this will allow Copenhagen researchers to develop better drugs for cancer patients and perhaps even cure type 1 diabetes.

»The centre will blend in well with other strong facilities at Copenhagen. It will benefit from some of the centres here, such as the Metabolic and Protein centres,« Semb says.

Better late than never

The creation of the centre is late, relative to other institutions abroad which have been researching or ‘translating’ stem cells for years now. However what the centre lacks in timeliness, it makes up for in innovation, Semb says.

»Usually you have basic stem cell research or translational stem cell research. You typically don’t see both working together. It’s a wise decision to have the critical mass located under one roof,« he says.

This will have productive outcomes in several fields of research and medicine, he thinks. For example, one group of researchers would be responsible for studying the properties of insulin-producing beta cells – a major point of interest in finding the cure to type 1 diabetes. Meanwhile, another group of researchers could be testing, or translating, clinical experiments on patients in the hospital down the road.

Close to cures

University researchers have already laid the groundwork to the type of basic and strategic stem cell research they hope to accomplish when the centre, called Dan Stem, opens in January 2011. Copenhagen cancer researchers, for example, have already been studying the stem cells of cancer, where they believe cancer originates from. The new center will provide a venue to test and expand on this knowledge.

»By understanding the biology of normal and cancer stem cells, we aim to generate insulin-producing beta cells from stem cells to treat patients with type 1 diabetes and to design new drugs that more efficiently kill the cells where cancers such as breast cancer and leukemia originate from,« Semb says.