The ESTOOLS consortium, led by the Centre
for Stem Cell Biology
at the University of Sheffield in the UK, is a European Union 6th Framework
Programme Integrated Project which will advance fundamental understanding
and biomedical application of human embryonic stem cells, generating
significant benefits in human healthcare.
Leading scientists from seventeen academic institutions and three
biotechnology companies involved in ESTOOLS will come together in the
Derbyshire Peak District outside Sheffield at the end of August 2006
to launch the new consortium.
Embryonic stem cells have enormous potential, not only in regenerative
medicine for replacing damaged tissue in devastating diseases such
as Parkinson´s disease and diabetes, but also for applications
in drug discovery, toxicology and pharmacogenomics. They are also crucial
in understanding the underlying processes that lead to serious clinical
conditions ranging from infertility and birth defects to cancer.
Funded for four years from August 2006, the ESTOOLS project will generate
knowledge on the fundamental processes governing stem cell differentiation
and permit greater standardisation of research with human embryonic
stem cells, not only in Europe but throughout the world. It will include
the development of robust internationally-agreed standardised protocols
and tools for growing and manipulating embryonic stem cell lines, and
for monitoring their phenotypic, genetic and epigenetic stability.
This knowledge will be disseminated so that the wider scientific community
can make the best use of the stem cell lines which already exist.
ESTOOLS will also train young researchers from across Europe to gain
expertise in the field of human embryonic stem cells. Summer schools
and short training courses will be run, as well as longer exchange
programs including an innovative fellowship scheme that will allow
up to six young researchers per year to train in the laboratories of
some of Europe´s top human embryonic stem cell groups. As part
of this program ESTOOLS will be co-sponsoring with the European Molecular
Biology Organisation, EMBO, a one week course in working with embryonic
stem cells, to be held at the Centre for Stem Cell Biology in Sheffield
from 30 August 2006.
Professor Peter Andrews, Director of the Centre for Stem Cell Biology
at the University of Sheffield, said:
" Human embryonic stem cells
are set to give us important new insights into cellular development
and disease processes in normal human cells. By bringing together the
expertise of some of Europe´s principal groups working in human
embryonic stem cells, ESTOOLS provides unprecedented opportunities
for Europe to forge ahead of the USA in this exciting new area of biomedical