Professor at Biomedicine gets institute in China
A long-standing partnership with Chinese researchers and the world's largest genetic research company Beijing Genomics Institute has now led to Professor Lars Bolund from the Department of Biomedicine getting his own department in China – The Lars Bolund Institute of Regenerative Medicine.
How do newts grow a new tail or recreate other damaged limbs and organs? Is it possible to transfer the ability to self-repair to human cells? These are some of the things that will be researched at the Lars Bolund Institute of Regenerative Medicine.
The new institute is the result of Lars Bolund’s close collaboration with Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) – a collaboration that has taken place over more than thirty years – and which has led to many young Chinese students taking their PhD at the Department of Biomedicine. Similarly, Lars Bolund has carried out a large part of his research in China.
Will grow to a hundred employees
After 41 years as a professor, Lars Bolund was actually approaching his retirement from Aarhus University. But with him heading the new Chinese institute, the close collaboration between AU and China will continue, as will Lars Bolund’s current research into the sequencing of genes and regenerative medicine.
At AU, this research will take place at the Department of Biomedicine via the existing research collaboration known as Dreamteam (Danish Regenerative Engineering Alliance for Medicine). In China, new buildings are ready for the institute in BGI's 400,000 m² new headquarters in the city of Shenzhen. The new institute will also have research activities in the German-Chinese business venture Sino German Ecopark – an area covering 9 km² that is allocated for international cooperation in the Chinese city of Qingdao. The goal is for the institute to have around one hundred employees.
The new institute is financed by BGI, which also runs a large not-for-profit research company, with other funding from various Danish and Chinese foundations as well as funding from Qingdao’s research initiative.
Research into the self-repairing body
Researchers at the institute will continue to study how the genome is expressed in different cells and work on the development of molecular methods for reprogramming the cells – for example by altering connective tissue cells into stem cells and other cells that are needed to repair the damaged tissue.
The goal is to make the body's cells capable of regeneration, i.e. to enable them to repair damage just as zebra fish and newts can. Certain tissue in humans such as the skin, intestines and liver already have regenerative abilities to a certain extent, but major damage leads to scars rather than functioning tissue. One of the research tasks is therefore to improve regeneration and avoid the body forming unnecessary scar tissue.
The institute will also continue its current research into genetically modified micro-pigs, which have been developed to have particular characteristics in order to better study specific diseases. Further research is also being carried out into nanomaterials that can make it easier to build human tissue.
The Lars Bolund Institute of Regenerative Medicine was officially inaugurated at the beginning of September 2017.