Glossary

Glossary

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Adult stem cells

are stem cells which exist in an organism following birth. They are organ-specific and form new, specialized types of cells and tissue throughout the organism's lifetime. Their potential for self-renewal and differentiation is lower than that of embryonic stem cells.

Autologous cells

Autologous cells are the body's own cells, i.e. recipient and donor are identical. Most research approaches for new cell therapies use autologous cells because those transplants are not beset by dangerous immune responses.

Biopsy

A technique in which tiny samples of tissue or cells are removed from a living organism for examination. Biopsies involve minimal surgery.

Bioreactors

Contained environments in which cells are cultured under stable conditions (e.g. temperature, sustenance and air pressure). Bioreactors enable scientists to cultivate, develop and breed cells under optimal conditions.

Cell

The smallest biological unit making up all organisms. Humans have about 200 different types of cells.

Cell cultures

The basis for testing and assessing the development, characteristics and functionality of organic cells outside a body (in vitro) under controlled conditions. The methods used ('cell culture assays') are standardized and are used frequently in research and medicine.

Cell therapies

Therapeutic strategies in which cells are cultured outside the patient's body and implanted afterwards in degenerated tissue or organs to stimulate self-healing or replace dysfunctional cells.

Delivery systems

Substances or structures that can carry regulatory molecules to predetermined places within the body. One example is nanoparticles with embedded therapeutic substances.

Differentiation

The development of an undifferentiated progenitor cell (e.g. stem cell) into a specific cell type. Biological structures such as organs and tissue also develop from less to more specialized states. Since adult differentiated cells are no longer able to multiply endlessly, obtaining enough differentiated cells for therapy is difficult. Apart from cell division, differentiation also contributes to modifying the structure, form and function of multicellular life forms.

Embryonic stem cells

Undifferentiated stem cells occurring in an early-stage embryo. Being pluripotent, they are able to develop into any body cells. In Germany, research using embryonic stem cells is strictly regulated by law.

ex vivo

The term used to denote techniques in which living material such as cells is extracted from an organism and then cultured and examined outside the body.

Gene

A sequence on a chromosome which is made up of DNA (deoxyrybonucleic acid) and carries hereditary information. Humans are estimated to have between 25,000 and 35,000 genes.

GMP

The abbreviation for "good manufacturing practice" - a system of guidelines for quality assurance used in the manufacture of pharmaceutical drugs and active ingredients. A GMP-conform quality management system is used for implementation. The regulations governing pharmaceutical applications are imposed by for instance the EU's European Medicines Agency.

Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD)

An immunological reaction which may occur as the result of an allogeneic cell transplant in which the donor cells are incompatible with the recipient's organism.

Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS)

 

are pluripotent stem cells generated by reprogramming adult cells. iPS hold great promise in the field of regenerative medicine: there are no ethical objections and they even can be made in a patient-matched manner. In 2013 japanese researchers started the first clinical trial proofing the safety of an iPS based therapy of age-related macular degeneration.

in vitro

A term referring to all processes outside living organisms. It includes all laboratory experiments on cells in test tubes, bioreactors, Petri dishes, cell culture environments, etc.

in vivo

A term referring to all processes taking place inside living organisms.

Materials research

In regenerative medicine, the role of materials research is to optimize the material characteristics, i. e. surface characteristics, biocompatibility or new material compositions, of implants in order to maximize their durability, functionality and acceptance by the recipient's body.

Potentiality

The degree of differentiation by which stem cells can be distinguished.
Totipotency refers to the ability to develop into a complete organism. This ability is possessed by fertilized egg cells, which are protected by embryo protection legislation.
Pluripotency is the ability to differentiate into any cell type of the organism but not an entire organism. This characteristic exists in embryonic stem cells.
Multipotency is the ability of a stem cell to develop into various - but not all - cell types of an organism.

Regenerative medicine

A relatively young branch of biomedicine.Research focuses on restoring dysfunctions of cells, tissues or organs through biological substitution or the stimulation of body’s own repair mechanism.

Regulatory molecules

Regulatory molecules can control specific cell types or tissue by triggering certain cell mechanisms. For example, they can stimulate the production of certain substances necessary for regeneration.

Reprogramming

The process by which adult stem cells degenerate using certain genes, regaining the properties of embryonic stem cells, especially the ability to differentiate into different cell types. Reprogramming offers an alternative to using embryonic stem cells. Artificially reprogrammed stem cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).

Scaffolds

Scaffolds play a key role in successful tissue engineering. Scaffolds offer different types of cells various specific growth conditions by giving them both a framework and sustenance. They can support the directed differentiation of stem cells and have the ability to integrate into and strengthen damaged tissue. Scaffolds for tissue engineering can be made out of for example gels, porous calcium structures or silk.

Stem cells

Stem cells maintain the growth and renewal of an organism. They are undifferentiated cells which are able to differentiate into various cell types and tissue. Depending on their type and how they are influenced, embryonic stem cells can develop into any tissue while adult stem cells can develop into specific tissue types. Due to these abilities they play a key role in the development of new cell therapies.

Stem cell research

The scientific study of embryonic, fetal and adult stem cells of all types of organisms. Interdisciplinary research chiefly comprises medicine and biology, although other areas such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering as well as philosophy, ethics and law are also involved. The main aim is to develop therapies for the regeneration of dysfunctional, damaged or functionally impaired organs and tissue by using cells developed from stem cells.

Tissue engineering

One of the main technologies of regenerative medicine. It involves taking tissue from an organism, culturing it in the laboratory, and then reimplanting it. In this way, dysfunctional tissue can be regenerated or destroyed tissue replaced in order to restore its function.

TRM Leipzig

The Translational Centre for Regenerative Medicine was founded in 2006 with the aim of developing and evaluating new types of diagnosis and therapy of regenerative medicine and transferring the findings to clinical applications. TRM Leipzig's work is funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research, the Free State of Saxony and the Universität Leipzig.

Xenogeneic cells

Xenogeneic cells are used for transfer between different species, for example from pigs to humans.