over the past five years, the Swiss National research Programme “stem cells and regenerative medicine” (NRP 63) studied the potential of stem cells.

Diabetes, heart, healing, brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease: twelve research groups have studied various pathologies. They looked at how stem cells contribute to their appearance or may instead be used to develop more effective treatments.

The research groups have highlighted the important role of stem cell regulation. For example, the development of a blood cell in stem cell is not only controlled by the genes: regulatory mechanisms enable and disable several genes at once. These mechanisms must be taken into account in the development of drugs.


The tumor formation from stem cells has also been studied. Both teams showed the potential danger lies not only in stem cells: it also comes from the intermediate forms of immature cells regress and revert to stem cells before they turn into tumor cells.

“It is important to recognize the difference between benign and malignant growth,” said Lukas Sommer, professor at the University of Zurich and responsible for one of the projects of the NRP 63. “We can use stem cells in medicine when we know that control their growth. ”

pancreatic cells possess a surprising power of transformation, as discovered the group of Pedro Herrera of the University of Geneva in studies on mice. Insulin-producing cells can be reconstructed from related pancreatic cells. This discovery could revolutionize the treatment of diabetes: instead of injecting exogenous insulin, someday maybe we can encourage the body’s cells to produce directly.