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Cellular Therapy

The use of cells in the treatment of illnesses

Center for Research of Cellular Therapy brings the relationship with the public sector closer together

Specialists in three distinct areas – molecular biology, hematology and the protein chemistry –, based at the Medical School of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo (USP), have teamed up to form a joint project through the Center for Cellular Therapy Research. The focus of the research will be the treatment of illness. The simplest model of cellular therapy is through blood transfusions. Cells may also be transferred through the use of bone marrow transplants. Likewise, it is possible to modify the cells before transplanting by inserting a different gene from the original, or, additionally, by collecting and expanding a given cell group and making it proliferate. “There are approaches which need to be better exploited as for example by vaccinating a cell to make it recognize a cancerous cell as abnormal and react against it”, explains Marco Antonio Zago, director of the Center.

This project involves the group of research scientists from the Hemocenter and Molecular Biology Laboratory, which is participating in the Xylella Genome and Genoma Cancer projects; the research workers from the Hematology Center who are studying blood neoplasm; the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit of the Medical School of the Hospital das Clínicas, Ribeirão Preto; and the Center for Protein Chemistry, which is studying the structure of the protein and its purification.

The Center come about from an already close relationship with the public health sector  “ The Hemocenter covers 212 municipalities in the state of São Paulo, with a population of 4 million and is already a source of inspiration for public health policies as a whole”, says Zago. With the support of the Financing Agency for Studies and Projects (Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos) – Finep, the Hemocenter has organized a program for control of quality in all the areas where it operates, a fact which has won it ISO 9002 certification awarded by the Paulo Vanzolini Foundation. The aim is now to bring the Hemocenter’s activities closer to the production sector. “We intend to become active in the production development area of laboratory methods for diagnosis”, Zago affirms “We already enjoy a relationship with a pharmaceutical industry in Ribeirão Preto which wants to develop products in the cellular therapy area.”

According to the international selection board which decided to choose the group for inclusion in the Cepid program, “the Center of Cellular Therapy Research’s action plan is a highly innovative one and very probably will provide important information not only for the Brazilian research scientists but also the scientific community throughout the world”.

The project envisages the continuation of courses for specialists in cellular biology at the graduate and doctorate level and the setting up of a program in which high school students and teachers will participate. “Our objective is to encourage direct contact between these groups and the research scientists in the genetics, immunology, cancer and health education areas”, outlines Zago. For example, the idea is to stimulate and orient students and teachers to carry out work in one of these areas. We will be holding a congress to select the best study and the selected student will begin a scientific education project in one of our laboratories”, he says.

Also envisaged are summer courses for graduate students in the areas of biological sciences with programs involving practical laboratory experiments. “We have already done the first with the name of Journey through the Genome and it worked very well.”