Shedding new light on regenerative medicine


STARSTEM is an innovative project funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 scheme. The project is poised to revolutionise stem cell therapy by providing unprecedented understanding about how these therapies actually work.

STARSTEM brings together leaders in the nano-materials, regenerative medicine, and bio-imaging fields from across Europe. We are using fundamental advances in the physics of imaging to validate stem cell treatments for arthritis. The project results will allow researchers and eventually, hospital doctors, to detect and measure the healing effects of novel stem cell therapies, even where they occur under the skin. Understanding the dynamics and distribution of stem cells means that it will be possible to optimise treatments for patients.

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Project in a nutshell

STARSTEM is devoted to understanding how stem cells and extracellular vesicles lead to healing. Understanding the hallmarks of the healing process will help researchers and doctors to treat a wide range of human diseases. The STARSTEM project comprises:

  • Optoacoustic imaging (OAI) – a biomedical imaging process to understand the healing process.

  • The STARSTEM nanostar – gold nanoparticle which will enhance the photo-acoustic effect.

  • Comprehensive experiment strategy – understanding therapeutic efficacy for arthritis.

Imaging in regenerative medicine

Regenerative medicine is a branch of medicine dedicated to developing methods which can repair or replace cell, organ, and tissue function that has been lost due to age, disease, damage, or congenital defects.

The ability to take high-resolution optical imaging deep inside tissues means that healing can be tracked over time in a non-invasive way.

A key question for regenerative medicine is the nature of the therapeutic agent – do stem cells lead to healing directly, or do they ‘communicate’ with the body via sub-cellular particles, and trigger healing ‘at a distance’?

While we focus on stem cells and extracellular vesicles, the STARSTEM technology has great promise for use in other cell therapies (e.g.  enabling us to track, for example, cells used in novel cancer therapies).

Stem cell therapy, has shown great potential in the treatment of a wide range of illnesses, from diabetes to cancer, arthritis to transplant rejection. STARSTEM will allow us to make great strides towards optimising treatments for patients.