Day 2: New Frontiers Symposium


The second day of the symposium focused initially on stem cells. Gernot Walko from Fiona Watt's lab (King's College London, UK) presented work on the role of interactions between epidermal cells and their environment in regulating stem cell behavior, in particular relating to healthy- and diseased skin. In a change to the advertised programme, the talk was given by Molly Stevens (Imperial College London, UK) discussed her work exploring and engineering the cell-material interface followed by Henk Stunnenberg (Radboud University, Nijmegen) who discussed his lab's efforts to decipher the epigenetic mechanisms linked to pluripotency.

010-walko 011-stevens 012-stunnenberg


Using smart chemistry, Teruo Okano (Tokyo Women's Medical University (TWMU), Tokyo, Japan) has developed a pioneering method to release cultured cells from surfaces as a single layer without the need for enzymes, thus leaving the cell layer with extracellular matrix (ECM) intact. This technique of cell-sheet engineering has already been successfully applied in the clinic to treat various medical conditions, including cornea epithelium deficient disease, esophageal epithelial cancer and cardio-myopathy. Work is ongoing to construct cell sheets consisting of more than one type of cell in order to create three dimensional biological constructs complete with the desired prevascular networks.




014-yooJames J. Yoo (Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, USA) presented insights into new therapeutic opportunities for repairing tissue abnormalities. Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine are using modified ink-jet technology to build a variety of tissue and organ prototypes. This technology allows multiple cell types and other tissue components to be arranged in pre-determined locations with high precision. In an early form of the technology, various cell types were placed in the wells of an actual ink cartridge and a printer was programmed to arrange the cells in a pre-determined order. The technology is now being adapted to a fully automated system in clean room environment with the envisaged capacity to build whole organs.

Stem cell technology has become one of the most interesting technologies in the way in which it poses challenges to the existing ethics of research in biomedicine. Some of these challenges have been very well known in the past, but others pose new and profound questions. For instance whether the therapeutic use of autologous stem cells should be viewed in the same perspective as drug related research in terms of safety and efficacy. Evert van Leeuwen (Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen) presented his thoughts, as well as public perception of science: hype versus hope.

Bloemendal MedalThe symposium was drawn to a close with inspiring keynote lecture by Christine Mummery (Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden) on utilizing derivatives of human pluripotent stem cells to model and understand the onset of many human diseases. The Hans Bloemendal Medal for 2014 was awarded to Professor Christine Mummery, in recognition of her groundbreaking studies in stem cell engineering and development [link].

For a photo impression of the second day of New Frontiers 2014 click here.

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