San Raffaele-Telethon Institute receives European funds to study how blood is formed

Andrea Ditadi awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant worth 2 million euro,

Andrea Ditadi

Finding the right recipe to create human blood in the laboratory and making it available for the treatment of multiple diseases: this is the objective of the ERC Consolidator Grant - worth 2 million euro - awarded to Andrea Ditadi, group leader at the San Raffaele-Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy (SR-Tiget) in Milan. The prestigious 5-year grant from the European Research Council was conferred after a long and rigorous selection process and will officially start on March 1st 2023.

The goal of the project is to thoroughly investigate the mechanisms by which the various blood cells are formed, in order to define a method for creating them from scratch in the laboratory, ideally for any patient in need. With this aim, Ditadi and his team will exploit pluripotent stem cells - the most powerful stem cells as they can generate all the cell types of an individual. Although these cells do not exist in the adult body, pluripotent stem cells can be obtained in the laboratory by reprogramming any cell from any individual thanks to protocols that are now consolidated all over the world.

As Ditadi explains, «we will try to understand how to direct these cells towards the generation of hematopoietic stem cells, which are those responsible for giving rise to all the various blood elements. To do this, we will study in depth how this happens during embryonic life: indeed the embryo knows how to produce all blood stem cells needed throughout life. If we manage to crack the "code" that the embryo uses, we will be able not only to generate blood stem cells in vitro, but also to expand those already present in our body that are normally used in bone marrow transplants. This would allow us to cherish our dream of a future where there will be no patient in need of a hematopoietic stem cell transplant, to treat a blood cancer or genetic disease, left behind: at present it is not always possible find a matched donor or have enough cells for a transplant.”

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