Another exciting International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) Annual Meeting has concluded. This year’s meeting, held in Melbourne, Australia (June 19-22nd, 2018), enabled the local stem cell research community to shine with many plenary talks, scientific presentations, and posters provided by researchers from Melbourne Universities and Hospitals. It was impressive! Many stem cell scientists were unable to attend the meeting due to the exotic and remote location. This summary will provide a snapshot of scientific themes and interesting science featured at the meeting.
Stem Cell Therapy
ISSCR 2018 was bookended by two invigorating symposia highlighting the “Road to the Clinic”, where researchers and clinicians discussed the workflow for developing stem cell therapies. Topics included basic protocol and process development, industrial challenges, and snapshots of success for tissue and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived therapies.
Lorenz Studer continued to detail his progress bringing iPSC-derived dopaminergic neuron therapy to the clinic. In partnership with BlueRock Therapeutics, this therapy is supported by manufacturing infrastructure to scale up cell production under GMP conditions. Dr. Studer’s therapy is passing Phase 1 clinical trials and he hopes it will be in the clinic in 10-12 months. One notable challenge mentioned by Dr. Studer was the unplanned redevelopment of differentiation protocols when converting proteins from research use to GMP. Learn how to navigate a regulatory path when moving your research to the clinic. Watch on-demand webinar.
The most exciting cell therapy talks were provided by Graziella Pellegrini and Michele de Luca, both whom were honored by the society for their recent work treating a patient with Epidermolysis Bullosa using lab-grown epidermal skin tissue. Their tissue production is based on the foundational work of Dr. Howard Green, who developed methods to culture skin stem cells. Specifically, de Luca discussed how their clinical progress was delayed due to regulatory changes implemented in Europe, resulting in more stringent GMP guidelines for ancillary reagents, including the fibroblast feeder cells needed to culture the adult skin stem cells. The necessity for them to construct a GMP protocol for skin production resulted in the delay of their clinical progression.
The stem cell culture methods employed by Pelligriini and de Luca are similar to those used in MimEX™ Tissue Model Systems for the generation of in vitro 3-D epithelial tissue models. Click here to learn more.
Epithelial Stem Cell Biology
Featured symposia and poster sessions highlighted progress in the field of epithelial stem cell biology. While the generation of 3-D cultures and organoids from epithelial tissue is thought to rely on the presence of stem cells in the starting tissue fragments, the true identity of these stem cells is still under investigation. For example, while LGR5 is the historical marker for gastrointestinal stem cells, it is not intestinal stem cell-specific and can be found as a marker of stem cells in many other epithelial tissues. Dr. Nick Barker, with labs in A*STAR in Singapore, showed innovative research identifying Aquaporin 5 as a potential gastric-specific stem cell marker. Dr. Barker used RNAScope® Technology from Advanced Cell Diagnostics, a Bio-Techne brand, to identify Aquaporin 5-positive cells and colocalize them with LGR5+ cells in the stomach.
Similar work was showcased for modeling kidney and mammary epithelial tissue. For kidney, Melissa Little’s lab (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) showed work developing advanced in vitro 3-D models of the kidney using iPSC as starting material. Her group used single-cell analysis to identify region-specific markers and investigate nephron development. For mammary tissue, multiple presentations and research out of Jane Visvader’s laboratory (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute), shed light onto tip bud and duct formation of the mammary gland, including the characterization of LGR5+ Tspan8+ quiescent stem cells.
Bio-Techne also presented work using MimEX™ GI, a new platform that generates accessible and consistent in vitro 3-D gastrointestinal tissue, to model gut inflammation. In the poster we showed that addition of interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) to the apical surface of stem cell-derived multi-cellular gastrointestinal epithelial tissue results in IL-8 production and disruption of the epithelial barrier. View ISSCR Poster on MimEX GI
Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Immune Cell Modulation
Independently, there were many great scientific posters focusing on either mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) or hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). However, since there are many MSC therapies currently in clinical trials there was much interest in how to characterize and monitor the immunomodulatory capabilities of the MSCs. View ISSCR Poster on Profiling Mesenchymal Stem Cell Immunomodulation
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