Axol Bioscience Travel Grant recipient, Helen Rowland, attended the ISSCR 2017, which took place in Boston, USA. Helen is a neuroscientist at the University of Manchester, UK. She shares her experience of the conference where she presented her research.

Day 1 (Wednesday)

The 2017 annual meeting for the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) was held in Boston, USA this year. With just under 4000 attendees, it was a fantastic opportunity to explore current research in the field. The first plenary session focused on just that, a decade of human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) research from their discovery in 2007. It was a pleasure to hear Shinya Yamanaka speak, whose work has been so important and literally laid the foundation for so much of today’s research, which increasingly utilize iPSCs.

In the evening was the first of three nights of poster sessions, and where I was due to present my own. It was a genuine delight to share my work looking at the effects of hypoxia on amyloid-beta degradation in Alzheimer’s disease iPSC derived neurons with other researchers.

It was great to exchange ideas on differences in techniques to speed up differentiation and maturation (..a couple months is a long wait for a PhD student!) and the characterization of neurons from iPSCs as well as ultimately how these neurons can better model disease.

Travel Grant One ISSCR 2017 Day One

Day Two (Thursday)

On day two, there were many concurrent sessions, which highlighted the diversity of the applications of which stem cells can be applied to disease research. I attended sessions on modelling neurodegenerative disease, which were all extremely interesting and heard some great presentations specifically on Alzheimer’s disease and how, despite the relatively young ‘age’ of these stem cell derived neurons, disease ‘phenotypes’ (or at least disease specific differences) could be observed.

Day Three (Friday)

Friday continued with further concurrent sessions in the morning. There was another plenary in the afternoon, which I found particularly fascinating that discussed stress, senescence and aging in stem cells.

After the last poster session in the evening, it was time to take advantage of the conference’s location on the east coast and try lobster rolls, which were cooked in copious amounts of butter – no leftovers!!!

Day Four (Saturday)

The last day of the conference proved to be a great wrap up to an excellent week. Following the morning session on tissue regeneration and homeostasis, during the lunch break, I made the short walk to the seafront and discovered the tall ships regatta was in full sail(!) Given Boston is one of the oldest US cities; it was fun to see the modern metropolitan sea front contrasting with a ‘square rig’ sailing along. Fortunately, no tea was wasted that afternoon!

The afternoon saw the closing plenary session address the frontiers of cell therapy. I particularly enjoyed Olle Lindvall’s talk about the transplantation of neurons using examples of Parkinson’s disease and stroke patients. He illustrated their approaches between neuronal replacement, to providing support such as through immunomodulations and stimulation of neural plasticity. It will be fascinating to see how this eventually progresses to clinical translation.

Thank you once again to Axol for the Travel Grant Award, which has allowed me the opportunity to attend ISSCR 2017. It has been a really invaluable experience to see and discuss the very latest stem cell research with an international gathering of leading scientists.


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