Axol Bioscience Travel Grant recipient, Eseelle Hendow, attended the European Chapter Meeting of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society 2017, which took place in Davos, Switzerland. Eseelle is a cardiovascular researcher at University College London, UK. She shares her experience of the conference where she presented her research.
Day 1: Welcome, Opening Session and Debates
One plane and three train rides later we finally made it to the quiet Swiss town of Davos. Over 1560 metres high up in the mountains and with the sun shining, we headed to the conference centre. After all the welcome talks, there was a thought-provoking debate between leading researchers in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
The motion: regenerative medicine and society would be better served by the few clinical successes in liver, pancreas and spinal cord regeneration than orthopaedic and dental therapies of which there are hundreds. It was an interesting topic. With arguments claiming that life-threatening diseases should take priority when it comes to research as patients can often live full lives while suffering from bone or dental ailments.
On the other hand, continuing research into bone tissue engineering could provide incites into soft tissue regeneration developments. It was also argued that we may need bone tissue engineering developments if we one day have to live on Mars to help our bodies adapt to the differences in gravity! The debate reminded me that it is important to consider the impact of your research beyond the disease type it is aimed at.
Day 2: Mountain Hikes and Poster Sessions
Tissue engineering using stem cells is a popular topic, and was the focus of the morning’s keynote speech. One of the most fascinating features of stem cells is that they can be applied to a vast array of different diseases, organs and tissues. It is always interesting to hear of how other research utilize stem cells in their work, especially when looking to translate research into the clinic. Lucie Germain (CRCHU de Quebec, Canada) spoke of skin regeneration to developing heart valves to implant development, highlighting the diversity of this cell type.
In the afternoon we had a break in the day. We took the cable car up the mountain, and had a long walk before the afternoon sessions began. The views were stunning – and luckily for us it had stopped raining!
The second day of the conference was the day of my poster presentation. The session took place in the evening, so it also became a great opportunity to network with people I would have otherwise not have had chance to meet.
The discussions I was able to have with various people from all over the world, at all different levels about my work during the session was invaluable. Receiving feedback on my work, as well as discussing new ideas and concepts was the highlight of the trip. I walked away with lots of new ideas, contacts and confidence in my work.
Day 3: Cardiovascular disease and new therapies
One of the first sessions of the day was ‘Biomaterials-based treatments for ischemic diseases’. I was looking forward to this session as it is directly relevant to my work. The first presentation was extremely informative by Andrea Banfi (Basel University, Switzerland). Focusing on utilizing adipose derived stem cells and VEGF for therapeutic angiogenesis, it had a lot of parallels with my work. I learned that it is important to try and control the dose of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) delivered, as too much can have a negative response, as well as too little having no effect. He also spoke about the importance of other growth factors in angiogenesis that are just as vital as VEGF. Other researchers also presented work related to peripheral arterial disease, I always find it useful to learn of what experiments others do related to evaluating ischemia. I walked away with many new ideas for my research.
Day 4: Ethical considerations of research
The ethics of medical research has always interested me, so I was pleased to see there was a symposium dedicated to this subject organised by the ‘Women in TERM’ committee. Four female leading experts in this field considered the ethical implications of the rapid advancements of new therapies.
With new developments in tissue engineering and biomaterials, I learnt how important it is that laws regarding ethics of the use of patients cells are kept up to date and how difficult is can be to change laws in this fast moving field.
In addition it was highlighted how important it is to inform the patient and gain consent when required, especially when referring to gene related work. To highlight the importance of consent, we were told about the story of the first immortalised cell line, HeLa, and Henrietta Lack, the woman they came from. Her family are seeking compensation for the unauthorised use of her cells. The use of her cells has been widely used and helped develop numerous treatments through the decades. The whole story is being made into a Hollywood movie! This story shows how important consent is, not only for the patient and the families to know what their cells/tissue is being used for, but also to protect the researcher and research being carried out.
Day 5: Imaging Techniques and Home!
The final keynote of the conference was focused on enhanced imaging techniques, and how they could be applied to regenerative medicine by Katja Schenke-Layland (University Tubingen, Germany). Specifically focused on non-destructive imaging that can protect samples while providing more detail and information than traditional modalities. (Specifically ramen spectroscopy and image flow cytometry).
Thank you to Axol for giving me the opportunity to attend this meeting.