stem cells in their environment

New Frontiers in Regenerative Medicine Symposium

30 October 2014
By Gernot Walko

Recently, I had the great honour to substitute for Fiona and represent our lab at the New Frontiers Symposium on Regenerative Medicine (16 & 17 October 2014). This meeting was organised by the Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. I was very proud to join a top line-up of speakers who provided high-quality presentations on current achievements and challenges in regenerative medicine.

Professor Robert LangerThe first keynote lecture was given by Professor Robert Langer (pictured right), David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, and one of the most influential people in the field of regenerative medicine. He is the most cited engineer in history and has nearly 1,050 patents worldwide, which have been licensed or sublicensed to over 250 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies. Research in the Langer lab continues to pioneer nanoparticle and microchip technology for use in delivering drugs to treat cancer and other illnesses. In his inspirational talk, Professor Langer shared many of his success stories with us. He illustrated the process of discovery; the initial resistance of the scientific community in some cases; the way patents were received; and how technologies have been transferred to companies and commercialised.

Professor Samuel Stupp, Director of the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science at Northwestern University, described strategies utilising supramolecular self-assembly to create bioactive nanostructures that mimic components of the extracellular matrix. He showed how these nanostructures can be used to send specific biological signals to cells to stimulate regeneration, mediate cell death vs cell survival, and guide differentiation of stem cells.

One of my favourite talks was given by Professor Teruo Okano, Director of the Institute of Advanced BioMedical Engineering and Science, and Professor at Tokyo Women's Medical University. He described a simple but elegant technology employing tissue culture dishes with tuneable surface properties that allow for release of epithelial sheets with intact extracellular matrix attached to it. He gave an insight into promising clinical studies using his 'cell sheet engineering' technology to generate autologous cell sheets from healthy patient oral mucosa for treatment of cornea degeneration and cardio myopathy, and for improved tissue regeneration after endoscopic mucosa dissection of early oesophageal cancer. To provide such treatments worldwide in the near future, Professor Okano's team are now attempting to build automated fabrication systems to produce large quantities of autologous cell sheets and thick tissues or organs by combining biomedical and engineering technologies. They hope to link these systems based on the production procedure and establish an infrastructure for the industrialization of regenerative medicine.

Professor Okano's talk was only topped by the presentation of Professor John Yoo (Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, USA), who summarised the world-leading research that is conducted at his institute to grow tissues and organs ex vivo. Fascinating current research projects include bio-printing of functional three-dimensional kidney, and engineering of miniature liver prototypes.

Professor Christine MummeryThe symposium ended with the second keynote lecture by Professor Christine Mummery (pictured left, Leiden University Medical Centre, The Netherlands), who gave a superb talk about the use of hESC and hiPSC to generate models for vascular diseases 'in a dish'.

All in all, an excellent and exciting meeting!

 

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