Welcome to the new STARSTEM website

The European Commission has awarded a €6 million project grant to our consortium, led by Professor Martin Leahy of the Tissue Optics and Microcirculation Imaging (TOMI) group at NUI Galway, to develop a novel imaging platform for regenerative medicine. This new project will allow researchers and eventually, doctors, to detect and measure the healing effects of novel stem cell therapies, even where they occur under the skin.

Professor Martin Leahy, Coordinator of STARSTEM and the Director of TOMI at NUI Galway

Professor Martin Leahy, Coordinator of STARSTEM
and the Director of TOMI at NUI Galway.

Regenerative medicine and stem cell therapies provide unique opportunities for treating a wide range of human diseases. While clinical trials have shown very promising results, scientists do not yet fully understand how stem cells trigger healing, or indeed where the cells go after they are administered to the patient. This uncertainty makes it difficult for regulators to approve new stem cell therapies, for doctors to prescribe them, and for these therapies to be optimised for individual patients.

Photoacoustic imaging (optoacoustic imaging) is an imaging modality based on the photoacoustic effect.

Photoacoustic imaging (optoacoustic imaging) is an imaging modality based on the photoacoustic effect.

The new STARSTEM project will address these challenges. Therapeutic stem cells will be ‘tagged’ with tiny gold star-shaped nano-particles, called nanostars, invented at NUI Galway, which will make them much easier to detect with an exciting new imaging technology, photo-acoustic imaging (PAI). This will enable researchers to track the location of very small amounts of stem cells, after they are administered. The effects of the stem cell therapy will also be measurable using PAI, which can detect healing as it happens, by measuring oxygen levels in the blood, formation of new blood vessels, and other signs of healing. These new insights will greatly help to take regenerative medicine into the clinic.

While STARSTEM is focused on developing new imaging technologies, it opens the door to new clinical research in regenerative medicine, with new tools and capabilities, and so helps to unlock the promise of regenerative medicine. Initially using osteoarthritis as its model disease target, STARSTEM’s platform has the potential to advance new treatments for cancers, neuro-degenerative diseases and a host of other illnesses. Professor Martin Leahy, Coordinator of STARSTEM and the Director of TOMI at NUI Galway, said: 

“This is an exciting opportunity to use fundamental advances in the physics of imaging to validate stem cell treatments for arthritis. Once demonstrated in this application the STARSTEM technology can be used to enable a wide range of stem cell therapies.”

Professor Frank Barry, Scientific Director of REMEDI at NUI Galway, said:

“It is critically important that we understand dynamics and distribution of stem cells so that we can optimise treatments for patients. This project will allow us to make great strides in this regard.”

STARSTEM has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Recent Posts