Year 1

The Scientific Symposium at Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa (SCMOM) aims to advance scientific progress through the collaboration of researchers and academic leaders who were selected to present at the 9th annual conference in 2014. The focus of the meeting was the dissemination of scientific results to area researchers through seminar presentations, question and answers, a poster session and networking.

Four panels and two keynote speakers centered their talks on translation of advances in regenerative medicine. The morning keynote speaker, Laura Niklason, M.D., Ph.D., of Yale University presented ‘Off the Shelf Engineered Arteries’ and also participated in the discussion part of the program’s panel ‘Engineering Microenvironments for Stem Cells.’ To close the meeting, keynote speaker Thomas Rando, M.D., Ph.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine spoke on the ‘Molecular Regulation of Stem Cell Quiescence and Activation’. Laura Niklason and Thomas Rando were excellent keynotes, bracketing diverse presentations.

This year’s panels included: Engineering Microenvironments for Stem Cells, Clinical Trials at the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center, Epigenetics and Stem Cells in Development and Regenerative Medicine and Modeling Human Disease. Presentations documented the impact of stem cell research on the understanding of human biological mechanisms, amelioration of human health, and treatment of disease and trauma. Overall, each panel ended up utilizing a different presentation and discussion style, which made for an engaging and thought-provoking effect throughout the Scientific Symposium.

The program’s first panel, Engineering Microenvironments for Stem Cells, reflected the multidisciplinary nature of our scientific community. The program’s approach engages basic scientists, medical practitioners, and engineers in an effort to better comprehend human disease and approach it therapeutically. Keynote speaker Laura Niklason joined the engaging panel discussion after hearing presentations by three leading bioengineering experts.

The second panel reported on three recent first-in-human trials of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center. The trials were highlighted in brief, effective presentations pairing the scientific trial PI with the clinical trial PI to emphasize the strength of the Sanford Center. This extraordinary partnership between clinical faculty at UC San Diego Health System and researchers at the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center accelerates the development of stem cell therapies. CIRM will be a vital partner moving forward.

The third panel focused on epigenetics, offering perspectives and new data from early career scientists, Michael Boland on Cell Fate Specification and Allen Wang on Epigenetic Control of Stem Cell Differentiation. Showcasing early-career talent is an important element of the program because of the importance our community places on developing the pipeline for future scientific and medical advances.

In the last panel, international scientific leaders challenged the participants to advance from the standard technology of patient-derived IPSCs to combine animal modeling and developmental embryology to combat genetic diseases. Joe Wu of Stanford University spoke about Cardiac Disease Modeling and Drug Discovery. Inder Verma of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies advocated combining gene and cell therapy approaches to develop therapies for genetic diseases. He described advances in deriving lung epithelial tissue, creating functional liver cells and blood cancer therapeutics. Juan Carlos Belmonte, also of the Salk Institute, discussed in vivo regeneration strategies in the heart. In his view, regeneration in the mouse heart occurs by dedifferentiation of cardiomyocytes rather than by the presence of stem cells per se. This session was significant because it emphasized how San Diego’s multidisciplinary scientific approaches, using cell models, animal models, engineering insights, medical knowledge and molecular biology advance regenerative medicine and stem cell science.