10th Symposium on Biologic Scaffolds for Regenerative Medicine
Napa, California, USA
British Heart Foundation Centre for Research Excellence
Imperial College London (UK)
The 10th Symposium on Biologic Scaffolds for Regenerative Medicine was held in Napa, California (USA) between the 3rd and the 5th of May 2018. This symposium is held bi-annually in the beautiful location of Silverado Resort, surrounded by the world-famous vineyards of Napa, just an hour from San Francisco. The meeting is highly interdisciplinary in nature and it is designed to advance the understanding and use of biologic scaffold materials for regenerative medicine and all general surgery applications. The format of the meeting included a series of presentations describing the potential benefits and risks associated with the use of biologic-derived scaffolds, time for networking, together with engaging discussion during the poster session. I was lucky enough to get some travel funding from the British Society for Cardiovascular Research to attend and present my PhD work, for which I am grateful.
The meeting started with an extremely inspiring keynote lecture delivered by Professor Mina Bissel from the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and for a taste of her moving presentation I highly recommend her TED Talk entitled “Experiments that point to a new understanding of cancer”.
Day 2 started in the earnest with a welcome from the Scientific Director and organiser of the meeting, Professor Stephen F. Badylak, who is the deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and whom I was really excited to meet. Sessions on day 2 were varied and covered different topics and different fields, from an overview of Extracellular Matrix (ECM) structure and function to clinical applications and outcomes of ECM-based technologies. While I learnt from every sessions and from the mix of basic science and clinical studies presentations, some of the talks that I particularly enjoyed where the one from Professor Christopher Breuer from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, who gave an interesting update on his team’s work on the development and the translation of tissue engineered vascular grafts for congenital heart surgery and Professor Karen Christman from the University of San Diego who presented her results on using injectable extracellular-matrix derived hydrogel for treating cardiovascular diseases.
At the end of day 2, together with a wine reception to let us taste the local specialities, there was an interesting poster session, with around 30 posters from PhD students and Post-Doctoral researchers from all around the world. Here, I presented my work entitled “Acidity in the heart: strategies to harness it for therapeutic intervention” and I got some useful feedback, which I will treasure in preparation for publication.
Between the poster session and the dinner, a very fun and different lecture was delivered by Professor Buddy Ratner, who’s not only a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington but also a wine-lover and a wine connoisseur. His talk entitled “Napa Wines: Tectonic Plates and Tannic Palates” was an interesting introduction to the local area and to the wine culture in California.
On Day 3, the plenary session was delivered by Professor Alberto Mantovani from Humanitas University in Milan, a world-famous immunologist who gave a comprehensive overview of the interplay between macrophages and humoral innate immunity in tissue repair and remodelling. Amongst others, talks that I found particularly interesting where given by Professor Lauren Black, Dr Harald Ott and Dr Helen Berry, who are all studying tissue engineered strategies to tackle cardiovascular diseases.
An aspect that I particularly enjoyed about this symposium was its interdisciplinary nature, with topics ranging from the basic science of cell/matrix interaction to preclinical and clinical studies in different fields of application, such as cardiovascular diseases or cartilage and bone regeneration. Moreover, I particularly enjoyed the practical perspective given by many of the speakers who were clinicians and the small and informal format of the meeting (around 100-110 attendees) that maximised and encouraged dialogue among the attendees and the speakers; hence, it was great to have the chance to discuss with world-renowned leaders in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Finally, a very nice location and amazing local food and wine were a plus that I really appreciated.
As a final year PhD student, attending this conference was a great opportunity not only to present my work and receive valuable feedback about it, but also to meet the scientists doing cutting-edge discoveries in the exciting and fast developing field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Since this is the topic that really fascinates me and in which I intend to continue my academic career, this conference also gave me a precious opportunity to establish a network for my future and I am deeply grateful to the British Society for Cardiovascular Research for contributing towards my expenses.