03/02/2020 New study published in a special issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences

Our manuscript on the antidiabetic action of the drug candidate BDDA has been published in the special issue of IJMS `Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Alterations in Diabetes: Causes, Consequences, and Therapeutics`.

This study was a collaborative effort involving the Widera lab and the Institute of Regenerative Pharmacology in Tomsk, Russia.

Full article: Antidiabetic Effects of Bisamide Derivative of Dicarboxylic Acid in Metabolic Disorders
Pakhomova et al. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21, 991; doi:10.3390/ijms21030991 

21/01/2020 New lay audience article on stem cell therapies for autism published in The Conversation UK

Darius published a comprehensive article explaining why unproven adult stem cell `therapies` for autism are more than problematic. To read this open access publication tailored for lay audience click on the link below.

Full article: Autism: stem cell clinics are offering treatments despite lack of evidence it works

20/01/2020 New lab member

Ellie McGuire joined our lab. She will be working on a Master`s project dealing with 3D cultivation and characterisation of human iPS cell-derived neurons.

Welcome to the Widera lab!

15/01/2020 Study cracking the riddle of Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor oligomerisation published in Science Signaling

In an interdisciplinary and collaborative study involving our lab and several lab`s in Germany published this Tuesday in the leading cell signalling journal `Science Signaling`, we show how TNFR`s assemble in the cell membrane to initiate inflammation.

Until now, many alternative models have been discussed ranging from receptor monomers to large oligomers.

In the present study, we applied single-molecule imaging in combination with genetic and biochemical tools to provide a decisive answer to this open question. Briefly, we show that before activation, TNFR`s exist as monomers or weakly bound dimers. Once this happens, they form transient trimers that assemble as nonamers.

Read more in Science Signaling by clicking on this link:

Single-molecule imaging reveals the oligomeric state of functional TNFα-induced plasma membrane TNFR1 clusters in cells
Science Signal. 2020 Jan 14;13(614). pii: eaax5647.

13/01/2020 New lab member

Alice Paci has joined the Widera lab for her PhD project.

Alice will apply bioinformatic and molecular tools to study if polymorphisms of inflammation-related receptors correlate with cancer prevalence.


10/01/2020 Manuscript accepted for publication in MRS Communications

Our collaborative study with the Owens lab at the University of Cambridge and the Iandolo lab at the INSERM Saint-Etienne (France) has been accepted for publication in the society journal MRS Communications. 

In this study, we show for the first time that blends of the electrically conductive polymer PEDOT:PSS and natural collagens are suitable scaffolds for cultivation and osteogenic differentiation of human neural crest-derived stem cells.

Full article: Biomimetic and electroactive 3D scaffolds for human neural crest-derived stem cell expansion and osteogenic differentiation
Donata Iandolo, Jonathan Sheard, Galit Katarivas Levy, Charalampos Pitsalidis, Ellasia Tan, Anthony Dennis, Ji-Seon Kim, Athina E. Markaki, Darius Widera, Rόisín M. Owens
MRS Communications, 1-9. doi:10.1557/mrc.2020.10

26/11/2019 Invited Seminar at INSERM U1059, Saint-Etienne, France

Darius followed the invitation from Donata Iandolo and presented our data on natural and synthetic scaffolds for stem cell culture at the CSI seminar series at the INSERM Saint-Etienne.  

Darius Widera

22/11/2019 4th Congress on Regenerative Medicine at the Lomonosov University, Moscow, Russia

Darius attended the biannual conference on regenerative medicine in Moscow, Russia. This event is the largest stem cell conference in the Russian Federation and attracts over 2000 participants from Academia and Industry.

Darius Widera

Darius delivering his talk in the plenary hall.

He has delivered an invited presentation on translational 3D cell culture systems and chaired a satellite symposium dedicated to neural crest-derived stem cells and their secretome.

19/09/2019 Invited talk at the 4th Annual Visions for 3D Cell Culture Conference, Helsinki, Finland

Darius has delivered an invited talk at the annual cell culture event organised by UPM Biomedicals. 

Darius Widera

Darius talking about 3D cell culture

This year`s event took place at the Biomedicum, University of Helsinki. The topic of the presentation was the impact of different 3D scaffolds on fundamental properties of human stem cells.

18/09/2019 New lab member

Enrico Carmelo Torre joined our lab to work on his ERASMUS-funded Master`s thesis.

He will study calcium signaling in undifferentiated and differentiated marrow stromal cells. 

Welcome, Enrico!

30/01/2019 Invited talk at the Max Planck Insitute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany

Darius followed the invitation of the Lucas group in Mainz and presented our research on the biochemistry of the Toll-like receptor 4. In addition, Darius and Kurt Lucas discussed future collaborations on the topic.

18/10/2018 Stem Cell and Cancer Symposium 2018, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 

Darius and Yiming participated in the Stem Cell and Cancer Symposium organised by the University of Malaya. Both presented our research as oral presentations.

Darius Widera

In addition, Darius served as a poster judge appointed by the organising committee. 

12/07/2018 Alzheimer’s Research UK Oxford Network Dementia Research Day, Oxford, UK

Alessia attended the Alzheimer`s Research UK Oxford Network Dementia Research Day

Alessia Frigo

She presented her research as a poster entitled ‘Fibrillar and non-fibrillar amyloid-β₁-₄₂ peptides induce neuroinflammation via TLR4`.

02/07/2018 New lab members

Mesude Bicer and Rocio Martinez Aguilar joined our team. Mesude`s PhD project is focused on 3D cell culture systems for adult stem cells.

Mesude Bicer Rocio Martinez Aguilar

Rocio will work on the potential cross-coupling of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and Protease activated receptor 2 (PAR2) in human mesenchymal stem cells. Welcome!

30/06/2018 Lancashire Science Festival

From 28-30th July, Yiming participated to the Lancashire Science Festival.

Yiming (left) and other volunteers at the science festival

As one of the volunteers for the Biochemical Society, she explained cell biology and biochemistry topics to children from primary schools and the general audience.

Well done, Yiming!

01/06/2018 A Widera lab alumni selected for the Roche Continents Programme 

Marie has been invited to participate in the highly selective Roche Continents Programme. Roche Continents is an interdisciplinary leadership programme, exploring innovation at the intersection of arts and science.

Every year, Roche invites 100 of Europe's most talented students and young postdocs to Salzburg in Austria. The participants of the programme are selected by a jury in a competitive process from an applicant pool composed of top-students nominated by their schools across all Europe.


28/05/2018 Darius appointed Academic Editor at Stem Cells International

Today, Darius has been appointed Academic Editor for the journal Stem Cells International (IF: 3.989).

Stem Cells International is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes original research articles, review articles, and clinical studies in all areas of stem cell biology. 

18/05/2018 Academic visit from the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur

For the last two weeks, we have been hosting Dr Thamil Selvee Ramasamy from the University of Malaya. Dr Ramasamy is a senior lecturer at Department of Molecular Medicine, University of Malaya, Malaysia. She also serves as the President of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society of Malaysia (TESMA).

Darius and Dr Ramasamy in the Senior Common Room at the Whiteknights campus. 

Her laboratory focuses on understanding and exploring the therapeutic potential of pluripotent and multipotent stem cells by developing cutting-edge research strategies including tissue engineering, stem cell preconditioning, and rejuvenation strategies for development of both cell-based and cell-free approaches for their applications in regenerative medicine. 

During her academic visit, we exchanged our expertise on the isolation of clinically compliant extracellular vesicles from mesenchymal stem cells and worked on several joined manuscripts and discussed joined funding opportunities. 

30/04/2018 Manuscript accepted in Frontiers in Oncology

Our joined manuscript with Prof Yahaya`s group from the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia has been accepted for publication by the journal Frontiers in Oncology.

Image: Increasing concentrations of an NF-kappaB inhibitor decrease the stem cell characteristics of lung cancer stem cells. The image shows the reduction of tumourisphere size after exposure to increasing concentration of an NF-kappaB inhibitor.

In this study, we show that the signalling pathways regulated by the transcription factor NF-kappaB are pivotal in lung cancer stem cells. These results might help to selectively target lung tumour cells that are responsible for lung cancer relapse after therapy.

Abstract and full text: Inhibition of NF-κB signalling reduces the stemness characteristics of lung cancer stem cells. Norashikin Zakaria, Narazah Mohd Yusoff, Zubaidah Zakaria, Darius Widera and Badrul H. Yahaya, Front Oncol. 2018 May 17;8:16

18/04/2018 Seminar by Dr Paul Roach, Hopkins Seminar Series

Today, our lab was hosting a guest seminar within the Hopkins seminar series at the University of Reading. Our guest speaker, Dr Roach (Loughborough University, UK) provided exciting insights on how chemical and topological cues can direct differentiation of neural stem cells.

Moreover, he demonstrated how the combination of chemistry, 3D cell culture, and microfluidics can help designing a `brain-on-a-chip`.

23/03/2018 Manuscript accepted in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology

Today, our manuscript on the isolation and characterisation of ovine (sheep) neural crest-derived stem cells (NCSCs) has been accepted by the journal Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, section Stem Cell Research. This study shows that similarily to rodent and human tissue, NCSCs can be found in the sheep palate.

Ovine neural crest-derived stem cells stained with an antibody against the stem cell-specific marker Nestin.

In summary, these results could pave the way for the development of large animal models of regeneration that are superior to current regeneration models in rodents.

Abstract and full text: Isolation and Characterization of Neural Crest-Derived Stem Cells From Adult Ovine Palatal Tissue. Zeuner MT, Didenko NN, Humphries D, Stergiadis S, Morash TM, Patel K, Grimm WD, Widera D. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2018 Apr 11;6:39. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2018.00039. eCollection 2018.

01/03/2018 Guest Lecture at the Charité, Berlin, Germany 

Darius delivered an invited Guest Lecture within the `Linked in Regeneration` lecture series organised by the Berlin-Brandenburg School for Regenerative Therapies at the Charité (Berlin) which is Europe's largest University clinic.

The lecture entitled `3D Cell Culture Systems for Clinically Compliant Expansion of Stem Cells and Isolation of Stem Cell-Derived Extracellular Vesicles` was dealing with the translational aspects of stem cell technology.

28/02/2018 PhD viva

Today, Marie successfully defended her thesis and will be awarded the PhD from the Universiy of Reading. Congratulations, Dr Marie!

09/02/2018 Invited talk in Cambridge, UK

Today, Darius delivered an invited talk within the Cambridge Fluids Network Seminar Series. The seminar took place at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, West Cambridge Site and was hosted by Dr Roisin Owens.

The talk entitled `Expansion, differentiation, and migration of adult human stem cells in 3D cell culture systems` was focused on the use of different 3D culture systems in regenerative medicine.

04/01/2018 New lab member

Alessia Frigo joined our lab for her Master`s thesis. 

Her project will focus on the potential link between TLR4 signalling and amyloid beta-induced neuroinflammation. Welcome!

19/11/2017 3rd National Congress on Regenerative Medicine, Moscow, Russia

Earlier this week, Jono and Darius attended the largest conference on regenerative medicine in the Russian Federation which took place at the prestigious Lomonosov University in Moscow from 15-18 November.


Darius delivering his Keynote lecture on the impact of extracellular vesicles on regenerative medicine.

 Jono presented his research as an oral presentation and a poster while Darius delivered a keynote lecture.


Darius Widera

Prof Fritsch, Prof Grimm, Darius, and Jono participating in the satellite symposium.

In addition, Darius chaired a satellite symposium on neural crest-derived stem cells that he and Prof Wolf-Dieter Grimm have co-organised.

13/10/2017 Manuscript accepted in Science Signaling

Today, a manuscript on TLR4 dimerisation has been accepted by the elite journal Science Signaling. This project was a collaboration between Prof Heilemann in Frankfurt, Germany, Dr Cottrell`s lab in Reading and our lab.

Image: Science Signaling cover featuring our manuscript

In this study, we describe how advances super-resolution microscopy can help to distinguish between monomers and dimers of TLR4. Notably, our study has been featured as the cover story of Science Signaling.

Abstract: Quantitative single-molecule imaging of TLR4 reveals ligand-specific receptor dimerization. Krüger CL, Zeuner MT, Cottrell GS, Widera D, Heilemann M. Sci Signal. 2017 Oct 31;10(503). pii: eaan1308. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aan1308.

08/11/2017 Seminar by Dr Roisin Owens, Hopkins Seminar Series

Today, we have hosted a seminar by Dr Rosin Owens from the University of Cambridge. In this seminar within the Hopkins seminar series, Roisin presented her fascinating work on advanced biomaterials that she conducts at the  Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, West Cambridge Site. 

12/10/2017 3rd Annual Visions for 3D Cell Culture Conference, UPM Biofore House, Helsinki, Finland

From 11-12th October Jono and Darius attended the annual 3D cell culture conference and networking event organised by UPM Biofore in Helsinki.

Darius Widera

Darius presenting our data on cultivation of adult stem cells in nanofibrillar cellulose, fibrin gels, and conductive polymers.

Jono presented a poster entitled `The use of nanofibrillar cellulose hydrogels towards culture expansion of MSCs` while Darius delivered a talk on the 3D cultivation of adult human stem cells in natural and synthetic scaffolds.

09/10/2017 New lab member

Yiming Meng joined our lab for her PhD thesis.

Her project is focused on the role of the biased signalling through the Toll-like receptor 4 in brain cancer stem cells. Welcome! 

05/10/2017 Academic Visit from the Universiti Sains Malaysia

Today, Darius and Dr Francesco Tamagnini were hosting Dr Rabiatul Basria from the Univeristi Sains Malaysia.

Darius Widera

Darius, Dr Tamagnini and Dr Basria in the Hopkins building.

They discussed current projects and future collaborations on the use of titanium nanotubes in regenerative medicine and molecular neuroscience. 

23/09/2017 Recent Developments in Pharmaceutical Analysis Conference, Rimini, Italy

From 20-23th September, Darius participated to the Recent Developments in Pharmaceutical Analysis Conference which took place in the City Museum in Rimini. The conference was focused on cutting-edge analytical methods in pharmaceutical research. Darius presented our cell-based analysis system for

Darius presenting our U251-NF-kappaB cell reporter system. 

The conference was focused on cutting-edge analytical methods in pharmaceutical research. Darius presented our cell-based analysis system for screening for anti-inflammatory compounds. 

18/09/2017 Seminar `Clinical and Pre-Clinical Methods for the Study of  Neurodegenerative Disorders`, Republic San Marino

On the 18th September, Dr Francesco Tamagnini (Reading School of Pharmacy) and Darius attended the Seminar `Clinical and Pre-Clinical Methods for the Study of  Neurodegenerative Disorders` which took place at the San Marino Hospital. The event was open to the general public and consisted of a panel discussion and scientific presentation on state-of-the-art pre-clinical and clinical methods to study neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer`s and Parkinson`s disease.

Darius Widera


Left: General Director of the Institute for Social Security Andrea Gualtieri, Dr Francesco Tamagnini (Reading School of Pharmacy), San Marino Secretary of the State for Health Franco Santi, and Darius discussing the impact of neurodegenerative disorders on socio-economic development. Right: Darius and Dr Tamagnini being interviewed by the San Marino TV.

12/09/2017 Review article accepted in Mediators of Inflammation

A collaborative review article written by members of our lab and the Vaiyapuri group (Reading School of Pharmacy) has been accepted for publication in the journal Mediators of Inflammation. In this manuscript entitled `Toll-like receptor 4 signalling and its impact on platelet function, thrombosis, and haemostasis` we critically summarise the current knowledge on the TLR4-signalling in platelets and nucleated cells. Congratulations!

A dimer of TLR4 (gree, cyan) with bound MD2 molecules (magenta, yellow).

Free full text: Toll-Like Receptor 4 Signalling and Its Impact on Platelet Function, Thrombosis, and Haemostasis, Thomas M. Vallance, Marie-Theres Zeuner, Harry F. Williams, Darius Widera, and Sakthivel Vaiyapuri. Mediators of Inflammation. Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 9605894

21/07/1017 Widera lab featured in the UPM biochemicals GrowDex Newsletter

Our research on stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles and the use of nanocellulose-based biomaterials has been featured in the quarterly GrowDex newsletter published by the Helsinki based company UPM biochemicals.

Read the full article: Under the microscope: the potential of extracellular vesicles in diabetic wound healing (external link). 

18/07/2017 Manuscript accepted in MRS Communications

A manuscript entitled "3D Cell Culture of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Nanofibrillar Cellulose Hydrogels" has been accepted by the journal MRS Communications. In this study, we showed for the first time that human mesenchymal stem cells of different origin can be efficiently cultivated and expanded in a three-dimensional nanocellulose hydrogel.

Human mesenchymal stem cells embedded in the hydrogel. 

In contrast to conventional 2D cell culture, the 3D environment represents a more physiological niche and allows a cost-efficient and controlled expansion of human stem cells. 

06/07/2017 Academic visit from the Kaltschmidt lab

This week, we have been hosting Prof Barbara Kaltschmidt and Prof Christian Kaltschmidt from the Department of Cell Biology at the University of Bielefeld in Germany. 

Left: Darius and Christian at the doorway of the Schola Naturalis Philosophiae in Oxford. Right: Christian, Marie, Darius and Barbara enjoying the sunshine in front of the Senior Common Room at the Whiteknights campus of the University of Reading.

In addition to discussing current and future collaborations, we explored student exchange, shared technical tips and enjoyed the British summertime in Reading and Oxford.

03/07/2017 Manuscript accepted in Stem Cells and Development

A collaborative study by Prof Patel`s lab (University of Reading, School of Biological Sciences), our lab, and several international groups, has been accepted for publication by the journal Stem Cells and Development.

Stem cell-derived EVs (red) being taken up by cells in vitro. 

In this manuscript, we described a novel, clinically compliant method for isolation of stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles and characterised the protein and miRNA cargo of this therapeutically relevant stem cell-derived biologics. 

20//06/2017 Doctoral Research Conference 2017, University of Reading

At this Year`s Doctoral Research Conference, Marie took part in the Research Image Competition as the selected candidate from the School of Pharmacy.

Her contribution entitled `The Beauty is the Beast` shows brain tumour stem cells stained against a specific marker of neural stem cells.

19/06/2017 Manuscript accepted in Mediators of Inflammation

Our research paper describing a novel cell-based assay to study inflammation in a dish has been accepted by the journal Mediators of Inflammation. Our newly developed cell line allows easy and reproducible investigation of pro- and anti-inflammatory substances. Congratulations to Marie! 

Full paper: Development and Characterisation of a Novel NF-κB Reporter Cell Line for Investigation of Neuroinflammation.

19/05/2017 International Meeting of the Stem Cell Network NRW, Muenster, Germany

From 16th-17th May, we attended the 9th International Meeting of the Stem Cell Network North Rhine Westphalia in the lovely city of Muenster, Germany. This biannual conference featured excellent and exciting talks, among others by Prof Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte (Salk Institute) and Prof Robert A Weinberg (MIT, best known for his influential `Hallmarks of Cancer`- review). Marie and Donata presented their research as poster presentations.

Left: Marie explaining her research to Prof Weinberg. Right: Jonathan, Darius, Marie, and Donata enjoying the sun during the break. 

12/05/2017 Academic Visit from the Skurihin lab

This week, we have been hosting our collaborators from the Siberian Goldberg Research Institute of Pharmacology and Regenerative Medicine (Tomsk, Russian Federation).

Jonathan, Darius, Prof Skurihin, Ioannis and Dr Krupin in front of the Hopkins building.

Together with Ioannis, Prof Skurihin and Dr Krupin used our cell-based anti-inflammatory potency assays to study the mode of action of novel pharmaceutical compounds and biologics developed in Tomsk.

02/05/2017 New lab member

Dr Jonathan Sheard joined our lab to work on a collaborative project with UPM Biofore Finnland. He will investigate novel nanocellulose-based hydrogels and assess their use in stem cell biology. Welcome!

01/02/2017 Appointment as an External Examiner at the University of Newcastle

For the next four years, Darius has been formally appointed as an External Examiner for the Master of Research in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine programme at the University of Newcastle (Faculty of Medical Sciences).  

09/01/2017 Manuscript accepted in Regenerative Medicine

A review article on the potential of mesenchymal stem cells to treat lung disorders such as COPD has been accepted for publication by the journal Regenerative Medicine. In this collaborative manuscript, jointly written by Prof Yahaya`s group at the Universiti Sains Malaysia and us, we summarise current knowledge on the use of this adult stem cell type and discuss potential safety issues and limitations. 

05/12/2016 Poster Prize at The UK Mesenchymal Stem Cell Meeting, York, UK

Today, Marie, Ioannis, Kahdr, and Darius attended the 10th UK MSC Meeting at the University of York. This exciting meeting covered recent advances in mesenchymal stem cell research including their basic biology and updates on ongoing clinical trials.

Marie in front of her award-winning poster.

Marie presented a poster entitled `Inflammatory Licensing of Human Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Increases the Anti-inflammatory Potential of their Extracellular Vesicles` for which she has been awarded one of the Poster Prizes. Congratulations!

17/11/2016 6th MTERMS and 2nd Malaysian Stem Cell Meeting, Penang, Malaysia

Darius attended the 6th meeting of the Malaysian Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society and delivered an invited talk covering our work on the mode of action of stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles.

Darius Widera

Darius presenting our research at the MTERMS conference in Penang.

In addition, he acted as an appointed member of the evaluation committee for selected oral poster presentation. 

14-16/11/2016 Academic visit, University of Reading Malaysia, Iskandar, Malaysia

This week, Darius visited our Malaysia campus in the EduCity, Iskandar, Malaysia.

Darius Widera

Darius with UoRM MPharm students.

He met with staff and Pharmacy students, delivered genetics and cell biology lectures and presented our recent research findings within the University of Reading Malaysia Research Seminar series.

04/11/2016 Seminar at the Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine, Keele University, UK

Donata and Darius followed an invitation from Dr Paul Roach (Guy Hilton Research Institute, Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine, Keele University) and visited his lab for a research seminar and scientific discussion of current and future projects. Darius presented our new research on stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles and discussed potential collaborative projects. In addition,  potential links between our labs focusing on new 3D materials for stem cell differentiation have been discussed.

03/11/2016 Funding from the British Heart Foundation

Today, we have been awarded funding from the British Hearth Foundation to support a named PhD studentship (Mr Thomas Vallance). The project entitled "Impact of Toll-like Receptor 4-mediated Signalling in the Modulation of Platelet Activation, Thrombosis and Haemostasis" will start in December 2016. The project is a collaboration between Dr Sakthi Vaiyapuri`s and our lab and will investigate Toll-like receptor 4 signalling in platelets. 

18/10/2016 Abstract Selected for an Oral Presentation at Pharmacology 2016, Queen Elizabeth Centre, London

Marie`s abstract entitled `Is the regenerative potential of stem cells influenced by toll-like receptor 4 ligands?` has been accepted for an oral presentation at the Annual meeting of The British Pharmacological Society, to be held from 13-15th December 2016 at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in London. This annual meeting includes a selection of topical symposia, and plenary lectures and attracts over 1000 scientists from all over the world. Marie will be presenting her research on 15th December, 12:00 pm. Congratulations!

07/10/2016 2nd Annual Visions for 3D Cell Culture Seminar and Networking Event, Helsinki, Finland

From 6th-7th October Darius participated in an exciting 3D cell culture seminar, held at the UPM Biofore House in central Helsinki.

Darius Widera

Darius  participating to the roundtable discussion on the first day of the event.

This event has featured many fascinating talks from academia and biomedical industry and was mainly focused on different approaches to 3D cultivation of cells. Darius contributed a talk on 3D cultivation of human stem cells in matrices based on human blood plasma. 

22/09/2016 New publication in BBA Molecular Cell Research

Today, our manuscript on biased signalling via the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) has been accepted for publication by the journal BBA Molecular Cell Research. Toll-like receptors enable our body to sense danger and damage signal (e.g. infection of injury) and allow our immune system to react accordingly.

Toll-like receptor 4 (magenta) at the surface of human brain tumour cells.

In our study, we showed that depending on the nature of the activator (ligand) TLR4 can reduce migration and cell division of brain tumour cells. This occurs due to activation of different signalling cascades in these type of cancer cells.  Our results could lead to development of new treatment options for brain tumours including glioblastoma. 

Full details: Biased Signalling is an Essential Feature of TLR4 in Glioma Cells. Marie-Theres Zeuner, Carmen L Krüger, Katharina Volk, Karen Bieback, Graeme S Cottrell, Mike Heilemann and Darius Widera. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Sep 23. pii: S0167-4889(16)30245-2. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2016.09.016. [Epub ahead of print]

20/09/2016 New lab members / new projects

With the beginning of the new academic year, we would like to welcome new members of our lab. Dr Ioannis Azoidis will join our lab to work on the potential of stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles to contribute to neuronal regeneration. Mr Kahdr Alatawi`s PhD project is a collaboration between our lab and the group of Dr Vaiyapuri and will focus on the impact of inflammatory signalling pathways on platelet function. Last but not least,  Dr Donata Iandolo will join us in late October to study the impact of advanced biomaterials on osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells. This collaborative project taking place at the UoR and the Department of Bioelectronics (Prof Roisin Owens, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Saint Etienne) is funded by a Marie-Curie Fellowship recently awarded to Dr Iandolo. 

06/09/2016 Seminar in Gardanne, France

Today, Darius delivered an invited seminar at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Saint Etienne in Gardanne, France.

His talk was focused on the osteogenic potential of human neural crest-derived stem cells and how topological features can affect this intrinsic feature of this cell type.

In addition, he discussed details of a new collaborative project between the Department of Bioelectronics (Prof Roisin Owens and Dr Donata Iandolo) and our group. 

11/07/2016 Seminar / meeting, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany

This week, Marie and Darius met with our Frankfurt-based collaborators Carmen Krueger and Prof Mike Heilemann to discuss the progress of our joined project dealing with TLR-signalling in neural cells. In addition, Darius presented our new data on stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles.

30/06/2016 Invited talk at the University Duisburg/Essen, Germany

Darius followed an invitation of our collaborator Dr Bernd Giebel and delivered a talk on licensing of adult stem cells and anti-inflammatory potential of extracellular vesicles. The presentation was a part of the Seminar Series Stem Cell Research organised by the Institute for Transfusion Medicine, University of Duisburg/Essen.

25/04/2016 New publication in Clinical Science

Our study dealing with the anti-viral activity of 1,8-cineole has been accepted for publication by the journal Clinical Science. In this study, we demonstrated for the first time that the monoterpenoid 1,8-cineole (a natural organic compound present in eucalyptus, camphor laurel or cannabis sativa) potentiates the natural cellular protection mechanism against viral infections. We demonstrated this protective action in human cell lines, human neural crest-derived stem cells, and in living human nasal tissue.


1,8-cineole prevents inflammatory signalling (p65) in human nasal tissue. Left: control, middle: inflammatory signals, right: 1,8-cineole and inflammatory signals. 

In particular, we demonstrated that 1,8-cineole increases the activity of the anti-viral transcription factor IRF3 and decreases the inflammatory response caused by stimulation of the receptor TLR3 by double stranded RNA molecules (typical for several viruses). 

Citation: Mueller et al., 1,8-cineole potentiates IRF3-mediated antiviral response in a human ex vivo model of rhinosinusitis, Clinical Science, Apr 25 2016, DOI 10.1042/CS20160218

18/04/2016 New publication in Neurophotonics

Our manuscript on the transport of the transcription factor NF-kappaB in neurons has been accepted by the journal Neurophotonics. In collaboration with research teams in Frankfurt (Germany), Bielefeld (Germany), and Bordeaux (France) we applied super-resolution microscopy in combination with single particle tracking and found that glutamate induces a significant increase of mobility of the NF-kappaB subunit p65 in neurites of living hippocampal neurons.

Transport of p65 in a living neuron. Top: Fluorescence image. Bottom: Reconstructed trajectories of single moving p65 molecules.

Our study provides important biophysical parameters (diffusion coefficient and velocity) for retrogradely (from synapse to the nucleus) and anterogradely (from the nucleus to the synapse) transported p65. As defects in transport of NF-kappaB are believed to be linked to the development of many neurodegenerative disorders, our method could allow a precise assessment of pharmacological interventions aiming at intracellular transport processes in such diseases.

Citation: Widera et al., Single-Particle Tracking Uncovers Dynamics of Glutamate-Induced Retrograde transport of NF-κB p65 in living neuronsNeurophotonics. 2016 Oct;3(4):041804. doi: 10.1117/1.NPh.3.4.041804. Epub 2016 May 18.

14/04/2016 Presentation at the Annual School of Pharmacy PhD Showcase, University of Reading, UK

Marie will present her data on biased TLR4 signalling in glioma and stem cells at the Annual School of Pharmacy PhD Showcase, which takes place at the Henley Business School (G15), University of Reading, Whiteknights campus. Her talk is scheduled for the morning session and is entitled "Can Toll-like Receptor Ligands Affect the Regenerative Potential of Stem Cells?". The audience of the event comprises postgraduate students, postdoctoral researchers, healthcare professional, and invited guests from the industry.

06/04/2016 Presentation at The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), Porton Down, UK

Darius followed an invitation from Dr Diane Williamson and presented our research to scientists based at the Dstl in Porton Down, UK. His talk was focused on multi-lineage differentiation potential of human neural crest-derived stem cells of various cellular origin.

16/03/2016 ICBS Seminar Series, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

Today, following an invitation from Dr Francesco Tamagnini, Darius will deliver a talk at the Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Science Seminar Series in Exeter.

University of Exeter

University of Exeter

His presentation is entitled "At the Border of Multipotency: Adult Neural Crest-Derived Stem Cells".  

24/02/2016 Clinical Applications of Stem Cells Conference, Academia, Singapore

Darius delivered a talk on the regenerative potential of neural crest-derived stem cells at the Clinical Applications of Stem Cells conference in Singapore.

In particular, he discussed the potential of this unique adult stem cell source to contribute to the regeneration of complex lesions that affect multiple cell types.

Darius Widera

Darius talking about the neurogenic potential of NCSCs.

22/02/2016 - UoR Malaysia Research Seminar Series, Iskandar, Malaysia

Today, Darius presented our research at the beautiful UoR Malaysia campus in Educity, Iskandar.

University of Reading Malaysia

University of Reading Malaysia, Educity@Iskandar, Malaysia.

His talk entitled "Cellular Alchemy: Converting Adult Human Stem Cells into Nerve Cells" was focused on neuronal differentiation of human neural crest-derived stem cells.

Darius Widera

Darius discussing with attendees and Dr Wee Kiat Ong (Host, UoR Malaysia).

03/02/2016 - Molecular and Cellular Medicine Research seminar

Today, we are hosting Dr Francesco Tamagnini from the University of Exeter at our Molecular and Cellular Medicine Research seminar series. Francesco will present his research on different models of Alzheimer`s disease.

The talk is entitled "Alzheimer’s disease and the noisy brain: amyloidopathy correlates with hippocampal hyperexcitability" and will take place in the Hopkins Building, Room 101 at 1:00 pm. Everyone is welcome!

02/02/2016 - New publication in Journal of Translational Medicine

A commentary article from our lab has been published in the Journal of Translational Medicine. In this manuscript entitled "Paracrine effects of TLR4-polarised mesenchymal stromal cells are mediated by extracellular vesicles", we critically evaluate a recent study that suggests a crucial involvement of exosomal miRNA in anti-inflammatory properties of MSCs.

14/12/2015 - DEBRA Expert Panel meeting, Vienna, Austria

This week, Darius participated to DEBRA`s Expert Panel to evaluate project proposals submitted to their Clinical Research Programme 2015.

Darius Widera

DEBRA Expert Panel, 14/12/2015, Vienna, Austria.

DEBRA International is a worldwide network of national groups working on behalf of those affected by the genetic skin blistering condition Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB).

Their vision is to ensure that people living with EB have access to the best quality support and medical care, while also driving the development of effective treatments and cures for EB.

09/12/2015 - New lab members

We are pleased to welcome new members to the Widera lab. From January on, Liam Michael Turner will join us to investigate inflammatory signaling cascades in adult neural crest-derived stem cells. Kathryn Cottingham will work on novel methods to differentiate embryonic stem cells into functional cardiomyocytes.

In addition, Sofiat Hameed, Thomas Fitzgerald, and Grant Mehrjou will join us as project students (MPharm) to work on systematic research reviews.

25/09/2015 - Newton Researcher Links Workshop, Florianópolis, Brazil

Darius is just back from the Newton Researcher Links Workshop and the follow-up conference CONFERÊNCIA FAPESC PROEVENTOS “Understanding and Advancing Therapies for CNS Disorders” in Florianópolis, Brazil. Hi spent a week presenting our data, discussing the use of human stem cells in the development of advanced therapies for neurodegenerative disorders, and discovering new collaboration opportunities.

Darius Widera

Participants of the Newton Researcher Links Workshop (18th-21st September 2015, Maria do Mar Hotel, Florianópolis, Brasil). Click to enlarge the image (new window).

We thank Angela Bithell (University of Reading) and Helena Cimarosti (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina) for organising the workshop, all participants for their contributions and the British Council and FAPESC for funding.

08/08/2015 - New publication in Small

An original research article dealing with the application of Helium Ion Microscopy (HIM) to visualise membrane nanodomains (such as lipid rafts) has been accepted by the journal Small.

Picture: Neuronally differentiated Neural Crest-derived Stem Cell visualised by HIM.

In this collaborative study (with the Departments of Cell Biology, Molecular Neurobiology and the Faculty of Physics, University of Bielefeld, Germany) we directly visualised membrane nanodomains in human Neural Crest-derived Stem Cells (NCSCs), NCSC-derived neurons and mouse hippocampal neurons.

Full citation: Schürmann, M., Frese, N., Beyer, A., Heimann, P., Widera, D., Mönkemöller, V., Huser, T., Kaltschmidt, B., Kaltschmidt, C. and Gölzhäuser, A. (2015), Helium Ion Microscopy Visualizes Lipid Nanodomains in Mammalian Cells. Small. doi: 10.1002/smll.201501540

15/07/2015 - Oxford Dementia Research Day, St John’s College, Oxford, UK

On 16th June, Darius will participate to the Oxford Dementia Research Day.


The symposium covers various aspects of neurodegenerative diseases, including basic research as well as stem cell-based treatment options and novel drug targets, their prediction and validation.

18/06/2015 - Annual Meeting of the ISSCR, Stockholm, Sweden

Next week (24-27 June), Marie will participate in the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research taking place in Stockholm, Sweden. Among others, the meeting will feature a talk by the Nobel prize laureate Shinya Yamanaka.

Marie will present a poster on the inflammatory programming of cancer cells and stem cells. If you are interested in our research, feel free to join her during the poster presentation reception on Thursday (Poster F-0023, 6-7pm).

11/05/2015 - 2nd International Symposium "Age of Regenerative Medicine", Stavropol, Russian Federation

From 13th to 18th May, Darius will participate to the Symposium "Age of Regenerative Medicine" which will be held at the Stavropol State Medical University (North Caucasus, Russian Federation).


Picture: Stavropol State Medical University

He will give a talk entitled "Neural Crest-Derived Stem Cells as a Tool in Regenerative Medicine" and lead an all-day workshop on advanced stem cell technologies.


11/05/2015 - BioTrinity 2015, London, UK

Marie will participate to the Biotrinity 2015 conference. On May 13th, she will present a poster entitled "Novel Stable Human Reporter Cell Line for Screening of Anti-Inflammatory Active Pharmaceuticals and Biological Compounds" and discuss our research with potential industrial partners.

17/04/2015 - 8th International Meeting of the Stem Cell Network North Rhine Westphalia, Germany

From 21st to 22nd April 2015 Marie and Darius will attend to the 8th International Meeting of the Stem Cell Network North Rhine Westphalia in Bonn, Germany.

The conference will be held at the Plenary Chamber of the former German Parliament (Bundestag) and include talks by Fred Gage (La Jolla, USA) and Jürgen Knoblich (Vienna, Austria).

Marie will present a poster dealing with the impact of TLR4-signalling on malignant glioma cells and neural stem cells during the main poster session on April 21st at 4:45 p.m.


14/04/2015 - Researcher Links workshop "Understanding and Advancing Therapies for CNS Disorders" in Florianópolis, Brazil

We have ensured grants from the Newton Fund/British Council to run a workshop on understanding and advancing CNS therapies in Florianópolis, Brazil (18-21. September 2015).

Costs of all travel, accommodation and meals for all participants will be covered. Fully funded places are available for 16 researchers from Brazil and the UK (32 in total).

Workshop flyer

Darius will act as one of the UK-based mentors, deliver the keynote lecture in the session "Efficacy of human stem cells to treat acute nerve injury and neurodegeneration" and lead the focus group "Stem cell sources for regenerative medicine". The deadline for applications is 10 May 2015.

For further information and for application please visit:

30/03/2015 - Review article on TLR4 in adult stem cells accepted for publication by Stem Cell Reviews and Reports

Our review on the controversial role of the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) in adult stem cells has been accepted for publication by the journal Stem Cell Reviews and Reports.

Figure: TLR4-mediated signalling cascades.

In this article we critically review the current knowledge on the impact of TLR4 on the regulation of proliferation, differentiation and migration of various adult stem cell populations including neural, mesenchymal and haematopoietic stem cells. We further discuss conceptual and technical pitfalls in TLR4 research.

25/03/2015 - Charity football match staff vs students

Darius successfully participated to the annual Pharmacy charity football match staff vs students. All donations went to The Royal Berks Charity.











Picture: both teams exhausted after the match (click to enlarge)

Staff team line-up: McNeish, Brazier, Dallas, Cottrell, Ferguson, Cobb, Stephens, Greenland, Widera.


Lab relocated to Reading, United Kingdom

In February 2015 we have relocated our laboratory from Bielefeld in Germany to Reading in United Kingdom. We are now a part of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Reading.










Picture: Hopkins building, University of Reading

Our offices and the lab are located in the first floor of the Hopkings building at the beautiful Whiteknights campus. We look forward to new projects and exciting co-operations.









Picture: Whiteknights campus, University of Reading


Marie has been awarded by the GBM (German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) for one of the best MSc theses in Molecular Cell Biology 2014 (Germany-wide). Congratulations!