HKSTP Hong Kong & Guangzhou International Conference on Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine

Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) and Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH) co-organized a satellite event – Hong Kong & Guangzhou International Conference on Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine that was held on 20 December 2015. Keynote speakers from global renowned institutes, Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH) and Karolinska Institutet researchers, covered topics on stem cell research and applications. Government representatives and academics discussed on the policies for regulating stem cell research and therapeutic applications. I was lucky to have chance to take a photo with Keynote speaker – Prof. E. Peter Greenberg who was the Shaw Laureate (The Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine 2015).

In the beginning, Mrs Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, GBS, JP (Chairperson, HKSTP) gave welcome speech. She said Hong Kong to be an ideal gateway of Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine in the world as the role of super-connector.

The Honourable C.Y. Leung (Chief Executive, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) gave an opening remark. He emphasized Hong Kong’s super-connector role to employ the advantage of “One Country Two System” to link up the scientific research inside and outside China. For example, stem cell research center of Karolinska Institutet established in Hong Kong in this year. Finally, He said government supported stem cell research to enhancing quality of life of people that “Change Life and Make it Better!”

Prof. Ruiming Xu (Director for Bureau of Frontier Sciences and Education, Chinese Academy of Sciences) was our Guest of Honour and gave a guest speech. He said Hong Kong & Guangzhou International Conference on Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine was the new platform for different scientists to communication on stem cell research.

Then Prof. Urban Lendahi (Representative of Karolinska Institutet (KI)) introduced the “Ming-Wai Lau Center for Regenerative Medicine” which was established in 2015 based on Mr. Ming-Wai Lau 50M USD donation. The Ming Wai Lau Center would have two nodes that one was in Biomedicum (KI) and the other was in HKSTP.

Prof. Lendahi said their strong technology focused on establishing laboratories in HKSTP and international recruitment of four junior group leaders. He stated the Ming-Wai Lau Center - KI and Hong Kong as gateways to Europe and China. This unique scientific link would be:
- Creating a leading technology hub in stem cell research
- Fostering the next-generation science leaders
- Forging new interactions between Hong Kong and KI
- Providing new gateways to Europe and China

Then all guests and keynote speakers were took a group photo.

The first keynote speaker was Prof. E. Peter Greenberg (The Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine 2015 – Shaw Laureate; Professor, Department of Microbiology, University of Washington) and his presentation topic entitled “The Social Lives of Bacteria & Does this have Anything to Do with Stem Cell?” Firstly, he introduced the “new” science of Sociomicrobiology to us. He quoted Prof. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937 – Nobel Laureate) that “Research is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.”

Prof. Greenberg discussed Darwin’s Dilemma that “Cheats should have a fitness advantage. Cooperation should be selected against.” Then he explained some definitions below:
Cooperation – A behavior that provides a benefit to another individual (recipient)
Cheater (freeloader) – An individual who does not cooperate or who cooperates less than their fair share, but who can gain benefit of others cooperating. Cheaters have a fitness advantage over cooperators.
Restrain – A self-imposed cost to cheating.
Tragedy of the commons – Depletion of a common resource by acting rationally in ones self interest (Hardin 1968). Also the commons dilemma, a social dilemma, a tragedy of the fisheries.
He found that “the light of a single bacterium is invisible to the unaided eye, but when enough luminescent bacteria cooperatively secrete a chemical, they make a quorum and create a light that people can see.”

It was Quorum Sensing (Bacterial Cell-to-Cell Signaling” used to control specific genes that allowed coordination of group activities. The mechanism of Quorum Sensing in Vibrio fischeri was explained in the following diagram. He concluded that “If cooperation is too expensive the incentive to cheat increases and a tragedy ensues.” Finally, he asked a question “By learning about communication and control of cooperation can we devise ways to induce a tragedy of the commons to resolve inflections?”

The second keynote speaker was Prof. Wise Young (Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology & Neuroscience; Rutger, State University of New Jersey) and his presentation topic named “Umbilical Cord Blood Mononuclear Cell Therapy of Spinal Cord Injury”

Firstly, Prof. Young introduced Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and how to regenerate it in which injected stem cells to build a bridge.

Then Prof. Young briefed different China SCI Net Trials and showed some successful cases in Kunming. He summarized that “a 6-week course of oral lithium carbonate is safe, does not change neurological scores, but appears to reduce severe neuropathic pain in chronic SCI. Moreover, phase II trials are planned in US & India to confirm safety and feasibility of Umbilical Cord Blood Mononuclear Cells (UCBMNC) transplants, intensive locomotor training, and whether lithium is beneficial combined with UCBMNC transplants.”

The third speaker was Prof. Lee L. Rubin (Professor; Director of Translational Medicine Harvard University and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute) and his topic was “Identifying Processes that Regulate Cell-Type Specific Neurodegeneration”. In the beginning, Prof. Rubin briefed the history of stem cells and therapeutics. He said stem cell might offer the unique opportunity to model human disease, to discover previously unrecognized aspects of disease and to discover subtypes of each disease.

Then Prof. Rubin introduced some diseases of interest included Autism Spectrum Discorders (自閉症譜系障礙), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (肌萎縮性脊髓側索硬化症), Parkinson’s Disease (柏金遜症) and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) (脊髓肌肉萎縮症). After that Prof. Rubin focused on SMA for discussion and he summarized that it was possible to use induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSCs) to model a neurological disorder (reproduced known properties of SMA).

Networking Coffee Break / Academic and Company Showcases
I visited HealthBaby Biotech (HK) Co., Ltd. showcase and took a photo with my boss.
(Left: I, Ms. Circle Yuen (COO, HeathBaby) and Ms. Freda Wu (COO, HKSTP))

Then we met Dr. Ali and took a photo for memory.

Group photo of HealthBaby
(Left: Ms. Minda Chiang, Ms. Circle Yuen and Mr. Victor Ma)

Minda and I also took a photo in front of HeathBaby booth.

Prof. Duanqing Pei (Professor and Director General, Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH), Chinese Academy of Sciences) was the fourth speaker and his topic named “Cell Fate Decisions during Somatic Cell Reprogramming”. His content included “Cell and Cell Fate”, “Reprogramming Cell Fate with defined factors” and “Potential Application of Reprogramming”. Prof. Pei said cell fate decisions during development and cancer.

Then Prof. Pei shared his paper named “A Mesenchymal-to-Epithelial Transition Initiates and Is Required for the Nuclear Reprogramming of Mouse Fibroblasts” and explained how vitamin C affected somatic reprogramming which demonstrated in the following diagram.

The most important concept of Prof. Pei’s talk was the routes to Pluripotent fates from skin (or Epithelial cells from human urine as ideal starting cells).

Stem Cell Regulatory Panel Discussion:
Prof. Kenneth Lee (Professor and Chief of Stem Cell and Regeneration Thematic Research Program, School of Biomedical Sciences, CUHK) was the moderator and the Panel Members were Prof. Martin Pera (Professor of Stem Cell Science, University of Melbourne), Prof. Wise Young, Dr. Jacqueline Barry (Head of Regulatory, Cell Therapy Catapult, UK), Prof. Marc Turner (Medical Director, Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, Scotland) and Mr. Henry Yau (Managing Director and Honorary Assistant Professor, Clinical Trials Centre, The University of Hong Kong)

During the discussion, Prof. Wise Young mentioned the important of product (stem cell) quality and safety such as following cGMP, etc. Mr. Henry Yau focused on ethic of research. Dr. Jacqueline Barry concerned regulation on clinical trial. Then Dr. Ali asked a question if many regulations set in early stage, many court cases would be happened like USA.

Dr. Ola Hermanson (Associate Professor, Karolinska Institutet) was the fifth speaker and his topic entitled “Transcriptional and Epigenetic Regulation of Neural Stem Cell State and Fate”. Dr. Hermanson asked how to control the size of the brain. He said we studied epigenetic mechanisms regulating neural stem cell characteristics assisted us in developing new understanding for and treatments of psychiatric diseases as well as neurodevelopmental, neurological and cancer disease.

Then Dr. Hermanson introduced their different stem cell research and the most interest was “a role for NCoR in controlling the factors implicated in the evolution of the brain – The Zweden model” which was like a music conductor using baton.

Dr. Jacob Hanna (Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Biochemistry Weizmann Institute of Science) was the sixth speaker and his topic named “Principles and Implications of Regulating Distinct Naïve and Primed Pluripotent States”. Dr. Hanna found that the developing mouse embryo in two distinct states: naïve – in the blastocyst (胚泡), and primed – in the post-implantation epiblast (外胚層).

The comparison of naïve and Primed in different characteristics such as Morphology, Growth properties, Pluripotency gene marker, X inactivation and Epigenome were showed in the following diagram.

Dr. Hanna told us two key remaining challenges in Primordial Germ Cell-like Cells (PGCLC) Technology. One was complete in vitro reconstitution of sperm and oocytes from rodent iPSCs and the other was reproducibility with Human iPSCs / embryonic stem cells (ESCs).

Dr. Liangxue Lai (Principal Investigator, Deputy Director of Southern China Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, GIBH, Chinese Academy of Sciences) was the seventh speaker and his presentation entitled “Genetically Modified Pig Models for Stem Cell Research”. Firstly, he told us some advantages of Pig models below.
1. The physiology and size of most organs are similar in pigs and man.
2. Easy availability – easy to breed and large litters
3. No ethical argument – a food source
4. Longer life span

Dr. Lai’s study focused on Huntington Disease (亨丁頓舞蹈症) through pig model. Another his study was Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (漸凍人症) and the famous case was Stephen Hawking (霍金). The following table showed different application using pig model.

The last keynote speaker was Dr. Stefano Pluchino (University Lecturer in Brain Repair and Honorary Consultant in Neurology, Department of Clinical Neurosciences – Division of Stem Cell Neurobiology; Wellcome Trust – Medical Research Council Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge) and his presentation was “How Stem Cells Signal to the Host Immune System”. Dr. Pluchino briefed the background of the impact of neural stem cell transplants in experimental Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders.

Dr. Pluchino stated the strengths and limitation of Neural Stem Cell (NSC) therapies in CNS diseases. Finally, he pointed out four key challenges to Stem Cell Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) (多發性硬化症) below:
1. Stem Cells – scale-up of safe stem cells under standardized conditions (i.e., autologous / non-immunogenic, non-teratogenic / tumorigenic);
2. Route of cell injection – preclinical evidence of efficacy after focal, intravenous, and intrathecal cell injection (i.e., feasibility in humans);
3. Cell dose and cell type/stage – experimental work informative / predictive for bench-to-bedside translation (i.e., number of cells / unit of body weight);
4. Biomarkers – cell survival, distribution, functional effects.

At the end of conference, Prof. Wai-Yee Chan (Director of School of Biomedical Science, CUHK) gave closing remarks. He said stem cell industry was future industry in Hong Kong and academic research in stem cell was popular in Hong Kong. Five universities displayed their achievement in showcase area. Finally, he appreciated Mrs Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun fully support.

I had took a photo in front of CityU booth. The poster I taken was Prof. Cheng’s recently study named “Zebrafish heart regeneration: an animal model of “to scar or not to scar”.

HKSTP - http://www.hkstp.org
HK&Guangzhou International Conference on Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine - http://events.hkstp.org/events/2015/StemCellConference/



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