stem cells in their environment
European Summer School on Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine
03 October 2013
By Gernot Walko
Stem cells. What are they? Where are they located in our bodies? How do they function? And what is behind the hype of enlisting stem cells to treat human diseases?
If you, like myself, are new to the exciting and dynamically expanding field of stem cell research and want some answers to these questions, the European Summer School on Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine is the venue of choice! Taking place on the beautiful Greek island of Hydra, located in the Saronian sea off the coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, the IX. Hydra summer school featured a great stock of leading stem cells experts to share their experience in many facets of their research. This year's (07.-14.09.2013) line-up included Austin Smith, Fiona Watt, Shahragim Tajbakhsh, Bruce Edgar and John Dick, just to mention a few.
The Greek island of Hydra
Beginning with a plenary lecture from Austin Smith about embryonic stem cells, the following seven days took us on a journey through all the diverse tissues that depend on stem cells for their homeostasis and regeneration. We studied the fundamental biology of pluripotent and tissue-specific stem cells, key research techniques and approaches, progress towards new clinical applications and ethical issues. Moreover, since the field of stem cell research is simultaneously exposed to public and political scrutiny, a strong focus of the IX. Hydra summer school was on critically reflecting on one's own use of the current stem cell vocabulary and on beginning to use a common language in the stem cell community for coherent exposition to the diverse audiences.
Training and advice for engaging with the public was provided in several excellent small group sessions hosted by Cathy Southworth and Jan Barfoot from the Eurostemcell team, based in Edinburgh. Daily evening poster sessions (congrats to the poster prize winners!) under the magnificent starlit sky provided great opportunities to discuss one's research data with the leading experts and fellow researchers. And last, but not least, what place could be better suited to forge new friendships and collaborations than beautiful Hydra? Its narrow, stone-paved, car-free streets, great restaurants and bars and lovely beaches with deep-blue crystal-clear water offering plenty of opportunities to socialise!
My resume: attending the Hydra summer school is a must for all future stem cell researchers!