Until now, the scientists at the Institute for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine (ISRM) at the Medical Faculty of the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf mainly extracted stem cells from bone marrow and amniotic fluid for their research. An invasive intervention was therefore always necessary. The scientists have now established a non-invasive method for extracting stem cells: They isolate cells from urine, generally known to be a waste product. One type of cell that can be obtained this way are renal stem cells that behave similarly to the mesenchymal stem cells obtained from bone marrow, but without a biopsy! Renal stem cells are a promising type of cell: They can be easily differentiated into mature renal cells and are therefore particularly interesting for drug tests and toxicology studies, which is why they are considered to have a high marketing potential.
Furthermore, renal stem cells from urine are also very well-suited for reprogramming in induced pluripotent stem cells: The team succeeded in detecting the corresponding markers for differentiation into the three germ layers endoderm, ectoderm and mesoderm. The iPS technology is used at the ISRM to investigate diseases such as Alzheimer's and fatty liver.
The cells obtained from urine are of great interest for academic and industrial research due to their properties and could for instance be used for testing newly developed drugs or to conduct toxicology studies. The cells can be extracted cost-effectively and without an invasive procedure on a large scale.
As is often the case with successful business ideas, the idea was born by chance, reports Lucas Spitzhorn: “Flyers for the Heinrich Heine University ideas competition were laid out in the cafeteria. As we had just established a protocol for the isolation of stem cells from urine, inspired by a recent publication, we submitted a short application and surprisingly won the audience award straight away! This motivated us to develop our idea further and create a business concept. We are very pleased that today we were able to convince a renowned jury of experts!” The first results have already been published in the meantime (Bohndorf et al. 2017).
Steffen Pörner, Managing Director of North Rhine-Westphalia’s banking association (Bankenverband Nordrhein-Westfalen), who gave the laudation this year, praised this year's award winners for their “highly unusual” idea. As one of 12 entries, UriCell was ultimately able to win over the jury, whose members are decision-makers from companies, employers' associations, foundations and the media. The criteria for the Rheinische Innovationspreis are innovation, sustainability, strategy and systematics, creativity, chances of success in the market and performance. The award-winning scientists can now look forward to a professional business photo shoot and professional business coaching. Additionally, a short filmabout UriCell was produced in advance and a one-hour special was recently broadcast on the local radio station Antenne Düsseldorf. All this offers UriCell the perfect opportunity to present itself to entrepreneurs looking for new investment opportunities. Interested parties are welcome to contact the UriCell team directly: www.uricell.de and info[at]uricell.de