eCells and Materials 2009 Conference in Davos

Stem Cells for Musculoskeletal Regeneration focus of 10th eCM conference.

28 October 2009

The 2009 European Cells and Materials (now known as eCells and Materials) conference at the Congress Centre in Davos focused on Stem Cells for Musculoskeletal Regeneration and comprised of 15 keynote speakers, 20 speakers, 32 posters and over 140 participants from all around the world. While it is impossible to detail all the presentations some of the highlights are described below.

It started with a notable first for the eCM series of conferences when the opening presentation was given by the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Sir Prof Martin Evans. He provided a wonderful introduction to the early years of embryonic stem cell work and demonstrated a clear enthusiasm for science. His approachability and willingness to discuss science was a highlight for many of the delegates.

Another notable speaker was Dr Stephen Minger who has battled hard to change the law in the United Kingdom to enable nuclear transfer of nuclei from either normal or diseased human cells into bovine eggs. This has led to development of new techniques which can produce a ready supply of stem cell models for numerous human diseases. He presented a number of the latest developments in the field of embryonic stem cell research, including an informative discussion on the ethics of human nuclear transfer into animaloocytes.

While the focus of the conference was on the use of stem cells for musculoskeletal work, no stem cell conference would be complete without some discussion of fundamental stem cell biology. This was provided by an excellent presentation from Dr Frank Barry on stem cell-host interactions and the potential of these cells to home to sites of damage. Prof Malcolm Alison described aspects of the stem cell niche and demonstrated methods which could be used to trace cell lineages in human tissues.

Large bone defects present a particular challenge in orthopaedics. One potential route to overcome this problem is the use of mesenchymal stem cells in conjunction with endothelial progenitor cells in order to improve vascularity. Prof Ashara described a number of features of endothelial progenitor cells, introducing many to a potentially valuable cell source.

As is the tradition with these meetings the small size and the emphasis on interaction and social events results in a large amount of discussion. All the invited keynote speakers were very friendly and many of the younger participants took the advantage of being able to speak to some of the more experienced researchers that would not be easily approachable at larger conferences.

The abstracts are published in eCM journal.

We look forward to another excellent conference next year: ECMXI Cartilage & Disc: Repair and Regeneration in June 28-30, 2010, once again at the Congress Centre in Davos. This will be immediately followed by the 18th Annual Meeting of the European Orthopaedic Research Society on July 1-2, also in Davos.

Martin Stoddart

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