11:24am Thursday 04 June 2020

Stem cell voice box transplant trials could begin in 2013

This revolutionary new kind of transplant treatment could change the lives of to 1300 patients a year in the UK who suffer serious problems with breathing, speaking and swallowing.

Loss of a working larynx (voice box) not only affects speech, swallowing, breathing, but also smell, taste, coughing, lifting and kissing, affecting thousands of people in the UK. Having carried out the world’s first stem cell transplant of a windpipe in 2008, Professor Birchall will be heading up a team to formally assess whether a similar approach can be used to repair problems in a voice box.

This research opens up new possibilities for patients receiving other kinds of transplants as well. One of the main problems currently facing those in need of donor organs is that they will need to take drugs for the rest of their lives as a result of the transplant. This new project, known as RegenVOX proposes that by using stem cells, this method could potentially help restore the patient’s own immune system and reduce the need for immuno-suppresant drugs.

Professor Martin Birchall at UCL says:

“We have assembled a large multi-disciplinary team of scientists, surgeons, nanotechnologists and bioengineers, all leading experts in their fields to create the RegenVOX project. We’re very grateful to the MRC for the support for this team to perform the necessary experimental and preparatory, including regulatory, work required to make laryngeal replacements available for patients. Without this funding, trials could quite easily have been delayed by another three to five years.”

Dr Rob Buckle, Head of Regenerative Medicine at the Medical Research Council says:

“This investment by the MRC is part of our long-standing commitment to turning the potential offered by stem cells into real treatments that can change the lives of patients. Regenerative medicine is a key priority for the MRC and Professor Birchall’s project could have a huge impact on how transplants are carried out in the future.”




Notes to editors


For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century. www.mrc.ac.uk


The UK National Stem Cell Network (UKNSCN) acts as a network for stem cell researchers and all stakeholders. It aims to bring coordination and coherence to a range of national and regional activities in the field of stem cell research. Its overall mission is to promote and enhance the coordination of research across the sub-disciplines of stem cell science, thereby helping to speed to translation basic research into therapeutic applications.

2011 will be the fourth UKNSCN Annual Conference, following on from successful events in Edinburgh (2008), Oxford (2009) and Nottingham (2010). This year’s conference in Nottingham was the biggest yet with 450 delegates and 45 trade exhibitors. Given the past demand for places and the expected increase in overseas participation, early registration is recommended.


The UKNSCN secretariat receives financial support from four of the UK Research Councils:


• Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) – £60k

• Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – £30k

• Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) – £30k

• Medical Research Council (MRC) – £60k


The Network operates for all stakeholders in UK stem cell research. The secretariat is operated through BBSRC on behalf of all the Government sponsors of stem cell research, including the Research Councils, the Department of Health, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Technology Strategy Board. Its work is governed by a sponsors’ Management Board, supported by an expert Advisory Committee.

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