Our centres

The Mercia Stem Cell Alliance is a collaboration between the following regional centres of excellence.

Aston University

The regenerative and medical cell technologies group at Aston University undertakes multi-disciplinary, translational research to accelerate the development of new cell-based medicines.

With a focus on strategies to enable the production and characterisation of human cells and their products for medicines development. We embrace two broad areas of interest:

  • Development of processes and analytics to support the manufacturing of therapeutics directly from human cells (including advanced therapy medicinal products [ATMPs], regenerative medicine, cell and gene therapies).
  • Application of human cells to create disease models in a dish for subsequent drug discovery.

To achieve this, we bring together fundamental human cell biology and chemical engineering. We use process engineering for cell and gene therapy manufacturing, as well as developing miniaturised, perfused cell culture technologies to support specialised cell functions for therapeutic applications.

We also research novel biomaterials and their applications in biomedicine. Engaging widely with industry and clinicians, we work to support them in creating new approaches to the development and testing of new cell-based medicine.



University of Birmingham

Stem cell-related research at the University of Birmingham is principally located in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and the School of Biosciences, while additional tissue regeneration research interests are embedded in the Healthcare Technology Institute, which is mainly led by the School of Chemical Engineering.

The many research groups that have major interests encompassing stem cell biology and application can be grouped into:

  • Fundamental stem cell biology (transcriptional regulation, epigenetics, stem cell migration, niches) on a variety of systems (haematopoiesis, breast epithelium, brain, intestine, skin).
  • Stem cells in the aetiology of disease (ageing, DNA damage and repair, cancer) in tissues including blood/bone marrow, breast, brain, large intestine, skin.
  • Stem cells as platforms for investigation of cellular mechanisms (eg autophagy and metabolic disorders) and drug screening.
  • Novel therapies, including regenerative medicine, ranging from haematopoietic transplantation strategies, cartilage and bone replacements, the use of dental stem cells, and immune system modulation.

Stem cell biology features in several degree programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, either as individual modules or complete courses.



University of Chester

The University of Chester has expanded its research and teaching in stem cells and regenerative medicine.

Twelve members of staff are now actively involved in this area and their research encompasses aspects of embryonic development, tissue morphogenesis and disease, regulatory mechanisms governing cell specification and differentiation, targeting cancer stem cells, examining cell-extracellular matrix interactions in health and disease.

We collaborate extensively with universities in the UK and overseas, along with NHS and industrial partners, e.g. the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital and the Veterinary Tissue Bank Ltd.

Specific research topics include:

  • cell transplantation therapies for spinal cord injury;
  • modelling tissue function and disease in 3D organoids;
  • epigenetic regulation of the muscuoloskeletal system;
  • cell therapies for cartilage and bone repair;
  • retinoic acid receptor specific signalling in embryonic stem cell-derived gastrulloids;
  • the role of the extracellular matrix in Alport syndrome.



Keele University

Keele University’s stem cell research explores both multipotent (hMSC, NSC) and pluripotent (hESC, iPSC, and epiPSC) in the development and evaluation of translational applications including non-invasive monitoring, remote control of cell behaviours, smart biomaterials, and determination of mechanism of action across musculoskeletal, neuronal, and respiratory systems.

In addition to this, Keele has been a pioneer in the application of autologous somatic chondrocytes and hMSC for the treatment of cartilage and bone disorders, respectively in partnership with the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital (RJAH), Oswestry.

Keele offers MHRA-approved clean rooms on two hospital sites, state-of-the-art cell culture facilities including multiple hypoxia suites, a comprehensive range of spectroscopic analysis tools including FTIR, Raman, and SIFT, comprehensive molecular biology analysis tools, and facilities for model system analysis.

Keele is also recognised internationally as a centre of excellence in the use of bioreactors for the manipulation and up-scale manufacture of stem cells, delivering an annual Bioreactors and Growth Environments course within the School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering as part of its postgraduate offering and online to an international audience.



University of Lancaster

The main focus of the University of Lancaster’s Biomedical Science Unit’s research activities is on fundamental molecular and cellular aspects of human disease.

Research is grouped around the following core themes:

  • cancer biology
  • neurodegenerative disease
  • microbiology
  • cell biology and biochemistry



University of Leicester

What we do:

  • Gene editing of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells
  • ES cells to epiblast-like stem cell differentiation
  • ES cells to ‘gastruloids’ as a model of early embryonic development
  • Examine transcriptional regulation by RNA-seq, ATAC-seq and CUT&RUN

Work in the Cowley lab is focused on the regulation of gene expression in the early stages of embryonic development by histone modifying enzymes.

Dr Gavin Morris works to understand how genetic loci that associate with several cardiovascular diseases (coronary artery disease, hypertension, abdominal aortic aneurysm) contribute towards disease progression.



University of Liverpool Stem Cell Consortium

The University of Liverpool conducts world-leading research in many areas of regenerative medicine.

Applications for stem cell therapies are being developed across a range of areas from kidney, liver and ophthalmic disease to various kinds of musculoskeletal disorders.

The University has established a Centre for Preclincal Imaging, a major focus of which is to evaluate the safety and efficacy of regenerative medicine therapies using novel imaging strategies.



Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU)

Within the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences (RISES) at LJMU, we have a fundamental interest in human adaptation, from the cell and molecular perspective to the community.

Our research focuses on elite sporting to clinical populations and across the ages.

Within the Stem Cell Unit, our research focuses on the interaction between anabolic and catabolic stimuli, reduced/over nutrition, epi-memory and altered wound healing capacity.

Biochemical and molecular biological analyses of whole blood, tissue and derived cells enable questions to be asked regarding cell memory as well as the impact of an intervention at both the local and the whole body level.

Housed within the Life Sciences Building, we are well placed to address key mechanistic questions relating to lifelong health and wellbeing.

In addition to standard cell and molecular biology and biochemistry facilities, we also have fully automated live cell imaging, 3-D bioengineering, laser-microdissection microscopy, cell tension and compression capabilities, 4 channel UV scanning confocal microscopy, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, FLOW cytometry, proteomic facilities and HRM-RTPCR expertise and technology.

Current and emerging models of interest include skeletal muscle, adipose and cardiovascular cells.

Watch: Sport and Exercise Science Research in the Life Sciences Building



Loughborough University

Loughborough University is home to the world-leading School of Sport Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS) and the Centre for Biological Engineering (CBE).

Research within the University cover many areas of bioengineering and cell therapy manufacture. Areas of focus within SSEHS include musculoskeletal tissue engineering, neuromuscular biology and the application of cell-derived therapeutics (for example, extracellular vesicles).

While the CBE represents a major national centre for late-stage cGMP, process oriented research designed to facilitate end-to-end supply chain logistics, while considering the challenges of commercialisation that may exist under the regulatory framework.



Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)

Stem cell research at MMU is diverse but organised into focused areas spanning basic biology toward clinical investigation and therapeutic translation.

Patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and embryonic stem cells are being utilised to study neurogenesis and neuropathic disease.

Expertise in hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) biology is being applied to better understand the development of HSC-related malignancies and HSC engraftment.

MMU also has a critical mass of researchers investigating stem/progenitor cell responses to muscular and vascular repair after injury.

The application of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) as drug delivery vehicles in stroke and cancer provide a clinical translational emphasis.

Finally, stem cell researchers are collaborating with bioengineers in the multi-disciplinary environment encouraged at MMU to develop tissue-engineered grafts for orthopaedic and cardiovascular disease.



The University of Manchester

Regenerative medicine and stem cell biology are priority research areas for The University of Manchester, with support through the Manchester Regenerative Medicine (MaRM) Network.

This network helps to connect biological, biophysical materials and clinical staff in the NHS working in stem cells and related areas, facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration.

Our stem cell research spans both pluripotent and adult stem cells including over 40 PIs across the spectrum of the above disciplines with an emphasis on bench to bedside.

Translation towards the clinic is facilitated through integration with Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) and through access to state-of-the-art technical infrastructure, facilities, and administrative support for ATMP clinical trials, as well as follow on funding.

We have a number of undergraduate courses including stem cell-related material and a dedicated final year unit undertaken by students on diverse courses. We have active master’s and PhD programmes including the MSc in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine.



University of Nottingham

The Nottingham Stem Cell Research Network is a forum of more than 100 members with common interests in stem cell research, to share resources and ideas, and develop new collaborations.

The Network‘s goal is to foster entirely new opportunities to maximise progression and translation of the stem cell field.

The core of the stem cell research at the University of Nottingham is hosted by the Biodiscovery Institute, a world-leading hub of interdisciplinary research excellence headed by Professor Chris Denning.

The Institute represents the consolidation of a considerable capability in pathology and cell culture; notably, with 120 class II cabinets, providing one of the largest facilities in the world.

Key research areas of the Institute include regenerative medicine, pioneering therapeutics, defeating cancer, taming microbes, industrialising biotechnology and demystifying biomolecular complexity.

Most-advanced 2D and 3D stem cell cultures, bioprinting and tissue engineering are combined to explore mechanisms of development, organ physiology and diseases including cancer, cardiovascular, liver, bone, respiratory and neurological disorders.



University of Oxford

The Oxford Stem Cell Institute (OSCI) unites stem cell research and regenerative medicine across the University of Oxford and currently comprises more than 40 laboratories across 17 departments.

It is truly interdisciplinary, drawing on expertise from fields such as materials science, medicinal chemistry, physiology, neuroscience and immunology in order to advance the translation of basic findings in stem cell biology to the clinic.

Core funding from the Oxford Martin School facilitates networking activities to enhance collaboration between members of the OSCI, while providing bursaries for younger scientists, DPhil studentships and career development fellowships.

It provides seed-funding for collaborative and innovative research projects between member laboratories. The research activities of the OSCI are underpinned by the Oxford Stem Cell Facility which provides support in the derivation and culture of human ESC and iPSC.



The University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield hosts the Centre for Stem Biology.



University of Warwick

Stem cell work at the University of Warwick focuses on gene regulatory control of cell fate in the developing placenta, and also tissue pattern formation during neurulation.

The Nelson lab uses mouse and human trophoblast stem cells to investigate how major foetal cell types within the developing placenta are programmed.  They use genome editing, functional genomics and transcriptomics to determine how signalling pathways, transcription factors and chromatin remodelling proteins combine to control trophoblast stem cell maintenance and differentiation.

The Saunders lab works on the formation of early organ morphology. They utilise the human “neuruloid” system to explore how mesoderm and neural tissue develop distinct structures. They combine live imaging, quantitative image analysis and modelling.



University of York

The York Biomedical Research Institute (YBRI) hosts over 80 researchers with active research in MSCs, HSCs, ESCs and iPSCs. There is a fully-equipped Wolfson Royal Society Suite for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering for MSC, ESC and iPSC work.

Our stem cell work is focused on identifying cellular and molecular pathways that regulate the stem cell state and understanding differentiated tissue function, primarily in skeletal and haematopoietic systems (bone, cartilage, marrow, blood).

This requires an understanding of the fundamental signalling mechanisms that determine stem cell fate, tissue remodelling, repair and regeneration and how to apply this knowledge to treat human disease conditions.

What we do:

  • cell differentiation: stem cells – skeletal lineages
  • cell signalling networks: identification – functional analysis
  • 3D models: cell communities – tissue engineering
  • clonal evolution in normal and malignant blood cells
  • single cell functional and molecular assays

Our work is supported by a wide-range of external funders including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Research Council, the Medical Research Council, Versus Arthritis, NC3Rs, Cancer Research UK and industry.