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ZRM – Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine

The Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine was established in 2006 as a joint facility of the University and the University Hospital of Tübingen with the primary objective of pooling and expanding research and development of regenerative therapies in the Tübingen area. The ZRM also provides advice and services to companies, research institutions and clinical users of regenerative methods.

Patient cells are cultured in the laboratory. This is the first step on the road towards producing new tissue for medical applications. © REGiNA

The region bordered by the cities of Tübingen and Stuttgart and the Neckar-Alb and Tuttlingen regions has long been known for its broad competences in the development and application of regenerative therapies. The region’s competence is the result of many first-class university and non-university research institutions, the large number of biotech start-ups and innovation-oriented medical device manufacturers that are present in the region. 

All these organisations gradually increased their cooperation and in 2001 achieved their first high point when they won the BioProfile competition of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). This award provided the region with around 20.5 million euros in funding for a period of five years. The participation of numerous research groups from the University and University Hospital of Tübingen led to groundbreaking projects, some of which have generated new products and methods that are used in the field of regenerative medicine. These activities and successes resulted in a dynamic that has attracted more and more experts. A broad range of follow-up projects were initiated, and the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Biology in Tübingen – ZRM was established in 2006 with the objective to exploit the enormous potential of Tübingen’s regenerative medicine even better in the future.

The centre coordinates projects in the fields of regenerative biology and medicine and follows them from basic research to clinical application, as well as coordinating projects dealing with the optimisation of methods already applied in clinical settings. In addition, members of the ZRM also pursue own research projects, for example the development of an innovative bioreactor for the production of three-dimensional human cornea implants. The innovative aspects relate to the use of a specific aerosol technology, rather than growing the tissue in liquid medium.

Coordinating research and carrying out own research

The Tübingen-based ZRM is specifically focused on providing information and advice on regenerative medicine (presenting at the “Wissenstage” event in Reutlingen) © Lehmann, ZRM

Researchers from the ZRM also carry out projects in the field of stem cell research. One project is aimed at developing more effective therapies for the treatment of neuronal disorders in the gastrointestinal tract. The researchers are working on the development of a method that enables the in vitro differentiation of a patient’s neuronal precursor cells into nerve cells, which are then implanted into the same patient. The therapy has the potential to be used to regenerate neurons in patients suffering from Hirschsprung’s disease, a genetic disorder caused by the lack of enteric neurons in the intestines. 

The two aforementioned projects are funded by the BMBF and are carried out in cooperation with partners from industry. The ZRM has comprehensive contacts with companies and makes these available to all scientists and clinicians associated with the centre who are seeking suitable research and development partners. The ZRM also serves as point of contact for companies and research institutions that are interested in making contact with and partnering with academic and clinical research groups at the University of Tübingen. The ZRM members pass on contact details as well as providing advice to researchers planning a specific project and are also available to give further advice if required at a later stage.

Securing sustainability with “regenerative” university programmes

Cell and molecular biology research provide the basis for regenerating cells and tissue. © Lehmann, ZRM

The ZRM is also committed to integrating regenerative biology and medicine into university teaching with the objective of drawing the attention of young academics to this particular area of competence offered in Tübingen as early on in their career as possible. The responsible parties hope that this will secure the sustainability of the field of regenerative medicine in Tübingen. Individual aspects are integrated into existing life sciences courses. New study programmes such as the inter-university course “Medical Technology” benefit right from the start from the lecturers’ expert knowledge in regenerative methods. The ZRM has already organised several series of lectures on regenerative biology and medicine and brings its expert knowledge to interdisciplinary seminars and lectures. 

REGiNA, a users’ centre for regenerative medicine in the area between Stuttgart, Tübingen and Neckar-Alb, won the BMBF’s “Health Regions of the Future” competition in 2009, and is particularly committed to providing the general public and patients with information about new therapies and in organising further training for medical doctors in the field of regenerative medicine. REGiNA brings together around 30 partners from regional research institutions, clinics and life sciences companies with the aim of turning the huge progress made in basic regenerative medicine research into applications and further developing existing regenerative methods. The ZRM is a partner in and one of the initiators of the REGiNA users’ centre; it is in charge of InfoLine, a telephone service providing expert information and advice to medical doctors and patients as well as managing the REGiNA web site. It also carries out evaluation and acceptance analyses and – together with BioRegio STERN Management GmbH – it deals with public relations work and further training. The ZRM is a member of RMIG (Regenerative Medicine Initiative Germany), which was established in 2007 to bring together scientists from around Germany who work in the field of regenerative medicine. The ZRM is also a member of the German Society for Regenerative Medicine (GRM) and the German Society for Stem Cell Research (GSZ). The coordinator of the ZRM, Prof. Dr. Konrad Kohler, is also a member of the GRM’s and GSZ’s boards of directors. The ZRM members are engaged in numerous bilateral research projects with national and international scientists. In the Tübingen-Stuttgart region, the ZRM works closely with research groups from the following institutions:

BG Trauma Centre, Tübingen
NMI – Natural and Medicial Sciences Institute, Reutlingen
ITV – Institute of Textile Technology and Process Engineering Denkendorf
Fraunhofer IGB and IPA, Stuttgart
University of Stuttgart

Further information:
University Hospital Tübingen
ZRM - Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine
Paul-Ehrlich-Straße 15
72076 Tübingen
Tel.: +49(0)7071 29-85034
E-mail: info(at)regmed.uni-tuebingen.de

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/zrm-center-for-regenerative-biology-and-medicine