European Union promotes research to prevent complication after transplantation of stem cells

Transplantation of stem cells can save the life of patients suffering from leukemia or other blood diseases. Between 30 and 50% of patients undergoing stem cell transplantation suffer from graft versus host disease, a potentially serious condition that results from donor immune cells „attacking“ patient tissues like skin, internal organs and mucosa. The TREGeneration project aims to test a cell-based therapeutic approach, expected to result in fewer side effects than the pharmacological strategies currently available.

The project is centered on five clinical trials conducted in parallel by five groups in different European countries. In each trial, patients will be treated with a particular blood cell population called regulatory T cells purified from blood of the original bone marrow donor. These cells have the capacity to suppress the tissue damage caused by T cells from the transplanted bone marrow. These early clinical trials (phase I/II) aim to identify the safe dose to be administered and also to generate preliminary efficacy data.

The task of the Berlin groups of Marie-Laure Yaspo at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics and Hans Lehrach from Alacris Theranostics GmbH is to characterize the “deep immune status” of patients and donors with a new technology developed by the two groups themselves. Using next generation sequencing, the scientists will analyze the T cell receptor repertoires in the donor and patient samples at several times after treatment in order to track the fate of individual T cell clones and populations during the clinical trials. The results are expected to contribute to a better understanding of the immune suppressive effects of the regulatory T cell treatment on the patients.

The TREGeneration consortium is led by João Lacerda’s team at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal, and comprises eight partners from five European countries. The clinical trials will be run independently by each center and are led by proejct participants: João Forjaz de Lacerda at the Hospital de Santa Maria in Lisbon; Matthias Edinger at the Universitätsklinik in Regensburg, Germany; Frédéric Baron at the Laboratory of Cell and Gene Therapy, Sart-Tilman in Liège, Belgium; and Mario Arpinati at the Department of Hematology “Seràgnoli”, University Hospital S.Orsola-Malpighi, Bologna, Italy. The data generated by the different clinical trials will be integrated within the framework of the statistical analysis performed by Marta García-Fiñana’s team from the Department of Biostatistics, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK. GABO:mi from Munich, Germany, is the project management partner.

Background information

The European Research Program Horizon 2020

The European Union regularly announces research programs in order to develop and strenghten the European Research and Innovation Area by funding cross-border research projects. Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). By fostering international collaboration in research and innovation, Horizon 2020 addresses the huge social challenges like fighting diseases, securing enery requirements or adapting to climate changes. It will support scientists all over the world to collaborate and find solutions for problems of social and global interest.

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