ARI Organises Stem cell and Biomaterial conferences

Summer this year brought two AO related conferences to Davos. The Annual eCM and Swiss society for Biomaterials conferences were both held in the Congress Center, Davos and were organised by the AO Research Institute Davos.

27 June 2013

Prof. Richard Oreffo explains the potential of stem cells for orthopaedic applications.

Swiss Society for Biomaterials

The SSB (Swiss Society for Biomaterials) Meeting was organised for the third time in Davos on June 25–26th, 2013 by the AO Research Institute Davos (ARI), continuing the association of the AO Foundation with the SSB and the history of biomaterials science in Switzerland. This 19th edition will be remembered for the decision to change the name of the Society to Swiss Society for Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine. In addition to marking the beginning of a new era, this new name reflects a recent transformation that has taken place within the Society. Two decades ago, when the SSB was established, the focus was mainly on ceramics, metal and polymers as materials for medical devices. Today, besides being constituents of medical devices, biomaterials are key ingredients of present and next generation regenerative medicine approaches. This trend is reflected in the scientific interests of the members, from both academia and industry. Another significant innovation were changes to the format of the conference, with the first afternoon session dedicated to young scientists and the second day comprising 2 keynote speakers and 14 selected oral contributions. The first afternoon session involved 7 well-prepared and enthusiastic young scientists presenting their master or PhD research. Notably, 4 of these contributions came from countries other than Switzerland, proof of the capability of the Society to attract professional researchers beyond its national boundaries. XH Qin, from TU Vienna, who presented Two-photon microfabrication of artificial ECM hydrogel via thiol-ene chemistry, was awarded the best presentation in the young scientist category. The morning session was opened by keynote speaker Prof. Matthias Lutholf, who fascinated the audience with the impressive results of advanced combinatorial techniques for studying ECM niches. Equally stimulating was the keynote from Prof. Michel Dalstra, who gave a comprehensive review of the X-ray microtomography of bone, embracing interesting historical notes and latest advancements. The resulting program put together by P-E Bourban, D Eglin, B Müller and C Wandrey covering this year's topic Polymers and Biomaterials has been a big success, promoting great interest and scientific discussion. The 20th edition of the Swiss Society for Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine will take place in Basel in May 2014.

eCM Conference

2013 eCM XIV: Stem & Progenitor Cells for Musculoskeletal Regeneration was held between 23rd–25th June 2013. This year was special, as it was the first year where the conference was organised by a new team, consisting of Dr. Martin Stoddart, Dr. Sophie Verrier, Dr Sibylle Grad and Dr. David Eglin. The previous 13 eCM conferences had been organised by Prof. Geoff Richards, Prof. Mauro Alini and Prof. Charles Archer so it was a tough act to follow.

This year's theme was Stem & Progenitor Cells, specifically covering some of the newer applications and mechanisms of action. After a wonderful introduction to stem cells and 'stemness' by Prof. Stanimir Vuk-Pavlović, we heard how these cells could potentially be used in musculoskeletal applications from Prof. Richard Oreffo. We then were provided with some detail of where they can be found in vivo from Prof. Bruno Péault and Prof. Cosimo De Bari.

The functionality of stem cells from different tissues was highlighted in the talk by Prof. Wiltrud Richter which was specifically focussed on adipose-derived cells. The question of stemness was again raised during this presentation. Overlapping the in vivo and in vitro aspects ofstem cell behaviourwere talks from Prof. Kevin Shakesheff and Prof. Matthias Lutolf which developed the aspect of biomaterial-cellular interactions. Whether they are used for cellular delivery into defects, or used to recapitulate the natural stem cell niche in vitro, biomaterials play a major role in directing the behaviour of MSCs. Dr. Karen English then highlighted the role of MSCs in modulating the host immune response, which may be one of the key mechanisms by which MSCs invoke a repair response. The clinical use of stem cells and associated regulatory barriers to be overcome were presented by Prof. Peter Giannoudis and Prof. George Muschler. Both highlighted the challenges of clinical translation and offered some potential solutions.

This was an extremely successful meeting, with some saying that it was scientifically one of the best eCM conferences yet. Turnout was high and the discussions after talks were extensive and thought provoking. This year in particular, the number and high standard of student presenters was a source of pride for the organisers and is something we hope will continue. Choosing the winners of the Robert Mathys student prizes was incredibly challenging with Elisabeth Seebach being a worthy winner with her talk Mesenchymal stroma cells implanted in fibrin hydrogel trigger attraction of M1 macrophages, endothelial cells and early immune modulation stimulating long bone healing without long-term engraftment. Choosing a poster prize was equally challenging and the award was won by Karen Roddy for the poster entitled Is NOV/CCN3 a potential new regulator of joint homeostasis?

Future Conferences

In keeping with AO Research Institute Davoss commitment to leading the field in conference organisation, Dr. Sibylle Grad will be a co-organiser of an ORS workshop Cell and Tissue Engineering for Annulus Fibrosus Repair: AO Foundation Collaborative Research Project for the ORS 2014 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 15–18.

Next year's eCM conference is eCM XV: Cartilage & Disc: Repair and Regeneration, 16th–18th June 2014, Congress Center, Davos, Switzerland. We hope to see you there.​​​​​​​

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