Stem cell research in 5 minutes or less
There were 35 scheduled speakers, a strict five-slide limit per speaker, and a scant 5 minutes for each researcher to present. Amazingly, everyone kept to the rules, and the program ended almost an hour ahead of schedule.
On November 4, the Stem Cell Affiliates—Children's Hospital Boston researchers conducting stem-cell-related work outside the formal Stem Cell Program—gatheredin Enders Auditorium to share their discoveries in 5-minute "stories of science."
"The idea of the 5-minute format was to introduce people to each other and create an interactive environment," says Leonard Zon, MD, director of the Stem Cell Program.
During breaks, the talk was nonstop, as researchers crossed departmental and divisional lines to exchange insights and ideas. "Many collaborations have been set up as a result," Zon says.
Last year, the Stem Cell Program reached out to the Children's research community, inviting anyone with an interest in stem cells, regardless of rank, to become a Stem Cell Affiliate. Nearly 50 people joined, and 33 affiliates presented their work on November 4.
Many researchers described efforts to isolate adult stem cells, such as Joyce Bischoff, PhD, of the Vascular Biology Program, who found cells that may give rise to both blood and blood vessels; Robert Montgomery, PhD, of Gastroenterology, who is searching for small-intestinal stem cells using a technique devised by fellow presenter David Breault, MD, PhD (Endocrinology); and Jordan Kreidberg, MD, PhD (Nephrology), who is seeking kidney stem cells. Others, like Aleksandra Glodek, DMD, Amy Wagers, PhD, of Pathology, and Emanuela Gussoni, PhD, of Genomics, described biochemical pathways that coax stem cells to do different things—transform into specialized cell types, migrate to other parts of the body, engraft into tissues, produce more stem cells, or simply do nothing.
Scott Armstrong, MD, PhD (Hematology/
Oncology), working on leukemia, and Peter Hauschka, PhD (Orthopedic Surgery), working on ovarian cancer, reported possible "cancer stem cells"—self-renewing cells that may be responsible for launching or spreading a cancer, and that might be important future targets of therapy.
And a few researchers described therapeutic studies in animal models, like Dario Fauza, MD (Surgery), who is repairing tracheal defects and patching congenital diaphragmatic hernias using stem cells from amniotic fluid, and Olin Liang, PhD (Newborn Medicine), who is investigating the use of stem cells engineered to contain therapeutic genes for the treatment of hypoxic pulmonary hypertension in newborns. Doug Cotanche, PhD (Otolaryngology) reported on his use of neural stem cells in mice to regenerate hair cells in the inner ear and rebuild sound-damaged cochleas.
The Stem Cell Program's Thorsten Schlaeger, PhD, outlined the services and cell lines available through the program's Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core, and Leslie Silberstein, MD, director of the Center for Human Cell Therapy, detailed its supports for eligible researchers, including a Regulatory Core with expertise in meeting FDA standards. (The center is a collaboration between Children's, Dana-Farber and MGH.)
George Daley, MD, PhD, associate director of the Stem Cell Program, gave an overview of his efforts to generate blood from embryonic stem cells by retracing the steps of blood formation in the embryo. His goal is to use stem cells to treat genetic blood diseases.
In all, over 200 people attended the four-hour event. For a list of presenters and the titles of their talks, visit: www.childrenshospital.org/research/stemcell and click on "Affiliate Members." For information on joining the Stem Cell Program as an Affiliate Member, contact Christine Kent (email@example.com).