Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre Melbourne, Australia
A report by Worrapong Kit-Anan
The Stevens, Terracciano and Harding laboratory
Department of Materials, Bioengineering, Myocardial Function
Imperial College London, UK
A great excitement in regenerative medicine drew a gigantic attention from both researchers and the public when scientists can reprogram somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells. This novel technology holds a great promise in a range of applications including cardiac repairs, disease modelling and drug discovery.
The ISSCR Annual Meeting 2018 is the biggest and most prestigious international conference in stem cell society and brings together global leading researchers and innovators on all aspect of stem cell for the future of medicine and research. Topics of discussion ranged from biomaterials for tissue regeneration and disease modelling, epigenetics and genetic regulatory networks, and clinical translation session. This allows participants to engage in cross-disciplinary dialogue and exchange of ideas. This episode of the annual meeting was held in Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre Melbourne, Australia.
My research project focuses on cardiac biology for a better understanding of physical cues that essentially play roles during cardiac development. My research addresses the significant challenges present due to the complex and dynamic interplay of electrical and biomechanical signals involved in the development and physiology of the myocardium. The study involves interdisciplinary techniques from synthetic biology, polymer synthesis and cardiac electrophysiology. This requires cross-disciplinary expertise and state of art techniques. Thus, the field is very dynamic as new techniques are continuously being innovated for an application.
My personal highlights were the tissue engineering session and cardiac development and disease, chaired by Professor Matthias Lutolf and Professor Charles Murry, respectively. Memorable talks in tissue engineering were given by Dr Kiryu Yap and Professor Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic. Dr Yap’s talk was related to a novel vascularisation technique that he recently published, which utilises our body’s repair mechanism to form an extensive vascular network in a scaffold. He then explanted the scaffold that had been vascularised for further application. This technique potentially allows scientists to create more relevant regenerative scaffold allowing healthy integration with the human body. This talk was followed by Professor Vunjak-Novakovic. She presented her recent works in cardiac tissue engineering and extracellular vesicles (EVs). The study used dynamic mechanical stimulation synchronously with electrical stimulation to create cardiac sheet made of human induce pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs). The microtissue showed promisingly many adult-like features such as microstructure and force generation. EVs is an emerging area of great excitement in cell biology and signalling involves the release and subsequent uptake of membrane enclosed packages of information. She presented EVs that has been isolated from hiPSC-CMs in comparison to hiPSC can rescue cardiac function after myocardial infarction, having a cardiac protective effect.
Another concurrent session, cardiac development and disease, featured many renown leading scientists includes Professor Christine L. Mummery and Professor Deepak Srivastava. Professor Mummery presented her current work on organ-on-a-chip and microtissue solutions in which co-culture technique was used with a mixture of cardiomyocytes, cardiac vascular and stromal cells were presented. She introduced novel differentiation technique in which those earlier mentioned cell types were derived spontaneously single in vitro, showing improvement in structural and functional maturity. The group combined with new methods for functional phenotyping to quantify the outcomes of drug and disease mutation responses in situ. Next session was featured by professor Srivastava, introducing his novel direct reprogramming of resident fibroblasts for cardiac regeneration. By using his novel technique, cardiomyocytes can re-enter cell cycle allowing them to undergo cell division.
Finally, I am very grateful for the opportunity that BSCR gave me to go to this conference and expand my network, as well as meet a number of dedicated scientists. I also had many insightful, thought-provoking discussions with other attendees. I believe we will be able to continue our discussions in future formal or informal collaborations. It was a great experience and I hope to attend more conferences in the future to present scientific findings.