The opening Presidential Symposium was designed to highlight the remarkably broad impact of stem cell science. Hand-picked by ISSCR President Hans Clevers, the invited speakers showcase the spectrum of research explored by stem cell scientists and the fundamental biology that they share.
Unifying biological discoveries can come from unsuspecting places. In the first talk, Ben Scheres from Wageningen University in the Netherlands will share his leading work on plant stem cells — come and learn what common underlying principles can be gleaned from uncommon models that could be applied to your research. The session then transitions from plants to amphibians. How do cells and tissues orchestrate limb regeneration in the axolotl? Elly Tanaka from the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Austria will discuss the impressive regenerative abilities of the recently-sequenced axolotl. Pivoting to humans, Graziella Pellegrini from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, will present her clinical translation work with gene and cell therapies.
Anchoring the Presidential Symposium is the 2018 ISSCR Tobias Award lecture by recipient Connie Eaves from the Terry Fox Laboratory at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, Canada. Dr. Eaves is internationally recognized for her work on hematopoetic stem cells, particularly focusing on the development of acute myeloid leukemias.
Mice, monkeys, and humans, oh my! What can we learn from studying development across a variety of mammalian species? Using murine, human, and non-human primate in vitro modeling of germ cell differentiation, Mitinori Saitou of Kyoto University, Japan, will expand on the similarities and differences between species, and discuss some unexpected findings regarding germ cell development. Anne Grapin-Botton of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, will then talk about her latest pancreatic organoid models to study normal and perturbed mechanisms in the mouse and how these studies have informed the technology’s translation to human models. Next, Nissim Benvenisty from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, will discuss his work to understand human pluripotency using human ES and iPS cells.
The Anne McLaren Memorial Lecture will feature mouse early embryogenesis expert Patrick Tam from the Children’s Medical Research Institute, Australia who is using spatial transcriptomics to track pluripotent cells through the developing embryo. The session will also serve as the platform to present this year’s Public Service Award to Megan Munsie from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Munsie is awarded for her work in public outreach and advocacy around stem cell science and its translation to the clinic.
The generation and maintenance of cell diversity is crucial for normal development and the health of adult tissues. This diverse plenary session will examine how this cell heterogeneity is regulated. In the first talk, Francois Guillemot from the Francis Crick Institute will discuss how quiescent and proliferating neural stem cell populations are regulated in the hippocampus to produce and maintain appropriate numbers of neurons in the brain. Then, Frederik Lanner, from the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, will elaborate on his recent findings regarding X-chromosome dosage compensation during human preimplantation embryonic development and the characterization of naïve- and primed- states of pluripotent cells. The advent of single cell transcriptomics has particularly revolutionized the study of cell lineage hierarchies of the blood system. Merav Socolovsky of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, U.S., will discuss how his lab is linking transcriptomic data to predictive fate models, and how they are dissecting the hematopoietic hierarchy at single cell resolution.
Lastly, The Ernest McCulloch Memorial Lecture features Douglas Melton of Harvard University, the incoming ISSCR President, who will discuss advances in both producing functional insulin-producing cells and protecting them from immune rejection.
This session highlights the exciting cutting-edge technologies that are driving influential new stem cell research, including organoids, genome editing, analysis of 3D genomic architecture, and single cell sequencing. While the excitement over organoid technology is spreading, one of the elements that has restricted their usefulness for both accurately modeling tissue development and their therapeutic translation is the lack of vascularization. In the first talk of this session, Fred Gage from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, U.S., will talk about his lab’s recent success in vascularizing brain organoids and their integration in vivo. The second talk will cover new aspects of genome editing. Not just for copying and pasting new genetic code anymore, Angelo Lombardo from the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy, Italy, will discuss the therapeutic applications of epigenome editing. Then, Jennifer Philips-Cremins from the University of Pennsylvania, U.S., will describe 3D genome folding changes during brain development, and how her lab’s study of chromosome misfolding during neurodegenerative diseases may offer new insights into treatment options. Next, Alexander van Oudenaarden from the Hubrecht Institute-KNAW & University Medical Center in the Netherlands will introduce novel technology using single cell sequencing to lineage trace thousands of cells during embryogenesis, adult organ formation, and regeneration in the zebrafish.
The session also includes a presentation by Shuibing Chen from Weill Cornell Medical College, U.S., this year’s winner of the ISSCR Dr. Susan Lim Outstanding Young Investigator Award for her innovative chemical approaches in pluripotent stem cell research.
One of the strengths of the field is using stem cells to model diseases. This session will highlight the diversity of approaches being used to investigate the clinical applicability of stem cells. While many other species have been successfully cloned in the 22 years since Dolly the sheep, primate cloning has remained mysteriously challenging. Earlier this year, the cloning of the first non-human primates captured headlines worldwide. In this session, Qiang Sun from the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences, China, will talk about how his team generated the first macaque monkey clones. Then, neurological disease modeling expert Steven Goldman from the University of Rochester, U.S., will discuss a new humanized mouse modeling system to study neurological and neuropsychiatric disease, followed by Joseph Wu from Stanford University, U.S., who will discuss recent advances in iPSC technology for disease modeling and precision medicine.
The session will also feature a presentation from Michele De Luca of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, the co-recipient of the ISSCR’s Award for Innovation, who will expand upon his groundbreaking work regenerating the epidermis of a patient with a fatal skin disease.
Plenary VI tackles the mechanisms of malfunctions in cell signaling that lead to cancer. This session begins with Allison Bardin from the Institut Curie, France who will discuss the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in place to limit over-growth by adult stem cells. In cancer cells, classical developmental signaling pathways such as Wnt, Hedgehog, and Notch can get highjacked. In the second talk, Tannishtha Reya will discuss how these pathways become dysregulated during leukemia development and will highlight their roles in diagnostics and therapy. Then, Nick Barker from the Institute of Medical Biology, Singapore, will discuss how signaling goes awry in intestinal cancer cells, and Jane Visvader, Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, will talk about new hierarchical insights of mammary epithelial differentiation. In the last talk of the session, Leonard Zon from Boston Children’s Hospital, U.S. will discuss niche-stem cell interactions as well as how the accumulation of mutations in blood stem cells leads to clonality and the development of blood cancer.
The ISSCR meeting is about bringing together insights from across the spectrum of stem cell research and bridging basic science to clinical impact. In this light, it is fitting that Jennifer Doudna from the University of California, Berkeley, and HHMI, USA, will be delivering the featured keynote address in this session to close out the meeting. Her research on CRISPR/Cas9, first discovered through basic science and now leading to a real and tremendous impact on human health, embodies the overarching theme of the meeting. In her talk, Dr. Doudna will address the past and future of gene editing.
This final session will also feature clinical translation advances by Michael Laflamme from the University Health Network, Canada, using stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes for transplantation, and Stanley Riddell from the University of Washington, U.S., applying CAR-T cell therapy to solid tumors. Katherine High of Spark Therapeutics, U.S., will be delivering the John McNeish Memorial Lecture on gene therapy in clinical trial for an ultra-rare form of congenital blindness and hemophilia.