The eCMXI Cartilage Disc: Repair and Regeneration conference held in Davos

The 11th European Cells and Materials conference took place from June 28-30, 2010

27 July 2010

eCM XI Cartilage Disc: Repair and Regeneration and was held at the Hotel Morosani Schweizerhof in Davos, Switzerland, from June 28-30, 2010. Around 150 participants, including biologists, clinicians, engineers, and material scientists attended the meeting, encouraging multidisciplinary discussion and networking. The organization of the conference into single sessions promoted optimum exchange of expert knowledge in basic, translational, and clinical research in the field of traumatic and degenerative disc and cartilage diseases.

As always with eCM conferences, the questions and discussion after the presentations were lively.

The scientific program was arranged by the conference organizers Martin Stoddart, Sibylle Grad, Mauro Alini, and Geoff Richards from the AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) as well as Charlie Archer from Cardiff University in Wales. Specific topics included the development, maintenance and degeneration of cartilage and disc, as well as scaffolds, mechano-regulation, clinical problems, and repair. Each session started with two keynote lectures by recognized experts in their fields.

At the conference opening the attendees were introduced to Davos in all its guises as a congress, science, sports, holiday, and health center by Sibylle Grad. After a presentation on the mission, programs, and activities of AO Research Institute Davos by its Director Geoff Richards, the first scientific session dedicated to cartilage and disc development kicked off.

Alison Cole gave an interesting lecture about the presence of cartilage in invertebrates and proposed these as alternative animal models. The functions of wnt-signaling in chondrogenesis and chondrocyte dedifferentiation were presented by Christine Hartmann, while Jim Ralphs highlighted the importance of chondroitin sulphate sulfation motifs in intervertebral disc development. In the following sessions Tonia Vincent reported on the role of biomechanical and biological/biochemical factors for the development of osteoarthritic changes, Mary Goldring introduced master genes involved in cartilage synthesis and degradation, and from Francesco Dell’Accio we learned about the importance of wnt-16 for cartilage repair. The lively discussion continued at the poster session, which was well attended despite the nice weather; presenters remarked that they hardly ever had better discussions at their poster sessions.

The sessions on the second day were dedicated to scaffolds and mechano-regulation. Both Abhay Pandit and Molly Stevens emphasized the functional role of an appropriate scaffold at the nanoscale level, depending on its use for regeneration of different tissues. Differential effects of compression and torsion on the metabolism of disc cells were demonstrated by James Iatridis, while Robert Mauck underlined the different response of chondrocytes and mesenchymal stem cells to mechanical stimulation.

As in previous years, the conference dinner was held at the Restaurant Ischalp. Participants enjoyed a tasty barbecue and an excellent view over the Davos area in a friendly atmosphere.

The conference ended on Wednesday with sessions on clinical aspects and future repair approaches. Wayne McIlwraith reviewed animal models for articular cartilage repair with particular emphasis on equine models that have been recognized to have several advantages for translation into human articular cartilage resurfacing. A comprehensive overview of current surgical procedures used to relieve symptoms of degenerative discs was provided by Constantin Schizas. He also pointed out that newer biological solutions might be implemented in the future, although their use is still far from routine and there are open questions about effectiveness in clinical setting and side effects. Such biological approaches, specifically the use of stem cells, their potential and challenges, and most recent research, were presented by Anthony Hollander and Judith Hoyland, addressing one of the most exciting topics in the field of cartilage and disc regeneration. With this session, an excellent and successful conference was concluded.

Finally, the organizers awarded student prizes to A Mujeeb for her exceptional oral presentation, and S Chan and C Paul for excellent posters. In his summary, Peter Roughley made us aware that we had indeed learned a lot during these three days and that research makes fast progress towards musculoskeletal regeneration. We look forward to the next eCM on cartilage and disc research.

At the end of the meeting Peter Roughley presented a superb
overview of the whole meeting.

A supplement of abstracts will be made available later this year on the eCM journal website.

The next European Cells and Materials conference, eCM XII on Musculoskeletal Infection, will be held from June 22-24, 2011, at the Congress Center Davos, Switzerland.

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