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 BIH 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 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 located under one roof in the Cranach House on Charité Campus Virchow-Klinikum (CVK). The institute building is named after Lucas Cranach the Elder, who created the masterpiece "The Fountain of Youth," an ambitious vision of regeneration often symbolically associated with regenerative medicine. The building also houses the Institute for Medical Immunology, the Julius Wolff Institute, 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. Furthermore, these institutions form part of a dense network of university-based and non-university-based facilities from across the Berlin-Brandenburg area, as well as Europe and worldwide.
The BCRT is an interdisciplinary research center of international reputation. Its clinical research fields (immune, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems) and clinical cross-section topics (genetics & rare diseases and cachexia & tissue homeostasis) are integrated into an innovative translational structure. Thus, BCRT research groups receive early and continuous advice and guidance from business development to regulatory issues to health economics. In this way, the BCRT ensures the rapid transfer of research results into clinical application.
The BSRT is a graduate school that emerged from the DFG Excellence Initiative, a research funding program administered by the German Research Foundation (DFG). It offers outstanding early career scientists from Germany and abroad training and research opportunities in the field of regenerative medicine. The main goal is to train doctoral students to work effectively with each other in this interdisciplinary field of research and to accompany them on the path of their still young careers. The BSRT offers a wide range of scientific courses relevant to regenerative therapies as well as a wide range of workshops dealing with career development, scientific communication, project management and much more.
The ECRT was founded in 2017 and aims to pool ideas of Berlin researchers, who work on the most diverse aspects of regeneration mechanisms and the healing of diseases by enhancing the body's natural regenerative potential. In a competition for the best approaches, so-called Einstein Kick Boxes are provided to give early career scientists in particular the opportunity to develop their own research ideas.