Regenerative medicine is a relatively young discipline that is dedicated to treating disease by strengthening the body's own regenerative potential. In cases of irreversible damage to organs or tissues, this involves the targeted use of cells, tissues and, where necessary, whole organs. The central questions are: how do biologically active factors, cells and biological materials support the body's regenerative processes? How can we utilize these effects as part of treatment? And how can we use modern stem cell technology in order to generate functional organoids as part of alternative treatment strategies?
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Working together towards tomorrow's medical solutions
At Charité, experts from the fields of medicine, biology and engineering work together to ensure regenerative therapies are made available to patients as quickly as possible. Their work, which focuses on supporting the body's natural healing processes, aims to stimulate the regeneration of cells and tissues in patients with musculoskeletal injuries or chronic disorders affecting the cardiovascular or immune systems. As such, it is of particular relevance in cases with limited treatment options. Another aim of this work is also to bring us closer to reconceptualizing the role and purpose of 'therapy' as 'curing' rather than simply 'treating' patients.
Teams comprising both physicians and researchers work towards developing innovative treatments and medical devices, which can be used to activate and manipulate natural regenerative processes. As part of these efforts, researchers use immune cells, adult stem cells, biological materials, and bioactive factors, which are used either on their own or in combination. In a step that may involve the use of induced stem cells to generate specific tissues, these are combined with gene therapy-based approaches or tissue engineering products. Once developed, these personalized diagnostic and treatment methods (methods specifically developed for individual patients) are then quickly implemented in clinical practice.
The field of regenerative therapies, which represents one of Charité's main research foci, rests on three pillars:
- The Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT) is an international, interdisciplinary research center which aims to promote the effective translation of basic research into clinical practice.
- The Berlin-Brandenburg School for Regenerative Therapies (BSRT) offers a structured training program, which is aimed at young researchers from different disciplines as well as clinical
- The Einstein Center for Regenerative Therapies (ECRT) represents a particular type of think tank. Aimed in particular at young researchers, it provides a forum which encourages researchers to work together in order to develop new and creative ideas.
The BCRT, BSRT and ECRT are all housed under one roof, and can be found in the 'Institutsgebäude Süd' building on Charité Campus Virchow-Klinikum (CVK). The building also houses the Institute for Medical Immunology, the Julius Wolff Institut, the Institute of Medical Genetics and Human Genetics, and the Nephrology and Transplant Research Unit, thus ensuring close proximity to the relevant clinical partners situated on CVK. In addition to promoting collaborations, this physical proximity also enhances the efficiency of research conducted in the field of regenerative therapies research. These institutions, which also benefit from close links with the BCRT's Brandenburg site in Teltow, form part of a tightly-meshed network of university-based and non-university-based facilities from across the Berlin-Brandenburg area, Europe and the world.
Selected cooperative projects
- DFG SFB Transregio 36: Principles and Applications of Adoptive T Cell Therapy
- DFG SFB 765: Multivalency as Chemical Organization and Action Principle: New Architectures, Functions and Applications
- DFG FOR 2165: Regeneration in Aged Individuals: Using bone healing as a model system to characterize regeneration under compromised conditions
- DFG GRK 1772: Computational Systems Biology
- BMBF - Understanding and Prevention of Primary Osteoarthritis Progression (OVERLOAD-PrevOP)
- BMBF - DIMEOs - Detection and Individualized Management of Early Onset Osteoporosis
- EU BioDrIM: Biomarker-Driven Personalized Immunosuppression (http://www.biodrim.eu/)
- EU PACE: Clinical application of the “off-the-shelf” allogeneic placenta-derived stromal cell product (PLX-PAD) for critical limb ischemia (CLI) – a phase III trial
Founded in 2006, the BCRT is the product of an alliance between Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Helmholtz Association. The BCRT has a team of more than 250 research and support staff (primarily comprised of physicians, experts from the natural, translational and engineering sciences, doctoral students, and technical staff) who work across two sites: Industriegebäude Süd on Charité's Campus Virchow-Klinikum and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht GmbH's Institute of Biomaterial Science on Campus Teltow. The BCRT is an internationally-renowned, interdisciplinary research center that is dedicated to improving our understanding of endogenous healing processes in order to develop new diagnostic and treatment methods. Its research focus is on the study of disorders affecting the immune, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems.
The center's various research units form part of an innovative translational research structure. Researchers have access to BCRT support staff with expertise in fields as diverse as business development, regulatory support, and health economics. This service, which is provided on an ongoing basis from the very early stages of project development, ensures that research results are quickly translated into clinical practice. All projects are subject to regular monitoring, which aims to evaluate progress, compliance with international standards, medical need, compliance with licensing conditions, and health economics considerations.
- 250 researchers and support staff from 30 countries
- 24 active patents
- 1,700 publications since 2006
- 21 clinical studies, 33 biomarkers
- 3 spin-offs
- 4 products on the market
- 30 industrial partnerships
The BSRT is one of the graduate schools approved under the Excellence Initiative, a research funding program administered by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The primary aim of the BSRT is to provide doctoral students and postdocs with the skills necessary to make them effective researchers in this interdisciplinary field of research, and to provide support to early career researchers. The BSRT's comprehensive training program offers a range of modules, all of which are highly relevant to the field of regenerative therapies. Young researchers have access to a wide range of workshops on subjects such as career development, science communication, and project management. These are offered in cooperation with Humboldt Graduate School (HGS) and Dahlem Research School (DRS) – the umbrella organizations for graduate schools at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin.
Founded in 2017 as a pool of creativity and innovation, the ECRT aims to bring together Berlin-based researchers who are involved in exploring different aspects of the body's mechanisms of regeneration, and in treating disease by strengthening the body's natural regenerative potential. Kick-off meetings (known as 'Einstein Kick-Boxen') are held to provide young researchers with the opportunity to develop new concepts and to test their ideas against the existing expertise of experienced researchers. In a highly-competitive process, the best ideas are then selected for full funding support. Throughout the idea development stage, the various interdisciplinary teams are guided by the principles of BioThinking, an approach that is based on the concept of Design Thinking, an innovative, team-based approach to problem-solving used in biomedical research.