Date: 13 March 2015
Venue: diverse Universities
Organiser: diverse Universities

Stem Cell Day for Schools 2015: search for further universities

Each year UniStem, the centre for dissemination of stem cell information in Milan, organises a big event on stem cells dedicated to high school students. In 2014 the event was organised simultaneously by 47 universities across Italy, Spain, Ireland, Sweden and the UK. Now plans for the 2015 event are underway and the UniStem team is looking for more universities to take part in this exciting event. Why not get involved?

Venue: Berne
Organiser: NRP 63

Third "Progress Report" meeting of NRP 63 in Berne

"Quite impressive." This was the conclusion drawn by Michael R. Rosen, member of the Steering Committee of NRP 63 on the achievements made so far by a total of eleven remaining research projects. During a two day period, the doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers presented their findings in the form of a poster presentation and in short addresses.

As it turned out, all research groups managed to deliver exciting results from their past three-year research work. The impressive publication list of NRP 63, which meanwhile has been extended to include 54 publications – some in such prestigious journals as Science and Nature, bears testimony to these achievements.

Sheila MacNeil and Davor Solter, two of the six members of the Steering Committee present, featured as the keynote speakers. Davor Solter, who hails from Zagreb and today carries out research in Singapore, looked back on his long research career in the course of his presentation. Solter analyses how DNA and proteins have to interact so that mouse embryos develop normally and what happens when key proteins are lacking. In doing so, Solter focuses above all on the so-called methylation of DNA, a process that allows genes to be toggled on and off like a switch.

Sheila MacNeil, in turn, provided an insight into the world of tissue engineering. She explained what methods are used today to create substitute skin. In particular, patients suffering from large-scale burns benefit from this substitute skin. In the past decades, major advances have been made in this field; nevertheless, the results as far as patients are concerned are still miles away from a "genuine" skin.

She further said that tissue engineering is meanwhile also being applied to other fields, such as on patients who have sustained injuries to the cornea, after an accident involving chemicals, for instance. Significant success stories have been recorded in regenerating the cornea. Moreover, with the aid of tissue engineering remarkable results have also been achieved for the benefit of diabetes patients, who frequently suffer from non-healing wounds, making it possible to close the wounds again. Studies are currently also under way on how to create new tissue for women suffering from a weak pelvic floor.


Place: Berne
Organizer: NRP 63

Second progress report meeting of NRP 63 in Berne

On 29 and 30 May 2012, the second progress report meeting of the National Research Programme "Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine" (NRP 63) took place in Berne.

During the meeting, research groups presented their results of the preceding year and discussed them with other researchers. With the aim of promoting young researchers, most of the presentations were given by postdocs or doctoral students. All members of the Steering Committee of NRP 63 were present, among them Elizabeth J. Robertson, professor at Oxford University, who talked about the embryonic development of mice in her keynote speech on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Martin Graf, leader of the stem cell group at Roche in Basel, gave a keynote speech on how his unit has developed since being established three years ago. He described collaborations that have been initiated and projects that are underway.

A further topic of Wednesday's discussions were ethical and legal aspects of stem cell donations. After an introduction by Olivier Guillod, member of the Steering Committee and professor at the University of Neuchâtel, Simone Romagnoli, Peter Bürkli and Jürg Halter explained the insights they have gained so far in their NRP 63 project.

Bernard Thorens, president of the Steering Committee, was very happy with the two-day event. "Many projects presented interesting results. I was particularly pleased by the interesting debates that followed the various presentations."

Place: Nottwil
Organizer: NRP 63

Research groups of NRP 63 "Stem Cells" meet for a "Progress Report"

The first "Progress Report" meeting of the National Research Programme "Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine" (NRP 63) took place on 23/24 May 2011 in Nottwil.

The meeting was called to enable all twelve research groups to present their progress during the past year and to encourage exchanges between the researchers. Among the invitees were not only group leaders but also doctoral candidates and post docs.

Bernard Thorens, President of the Steering Committee is happy with the meeting and the progress of the NRP: "The direction is right. Some research projects are already showing promising results."

In addition to the presentations by the research groups, the meeting featured two speeches: Michael Rosen, member of the Steering Committee and professor at Columbia University (New York), talked about the possibilities of a biological heart pacemaker. Robert Passier of the University of Leiden discussed approaches to treating damaged hearts with pluripotent stem cells. The meeting was concluded with a guided tour through the Swiss Paraplegics Center in Nottwil.

Place: University House, Berne
Organizer: NRP 63

Kick-Off Meeting

The NFP 63 kick-off meeting took place on 18 May 2010. All researchers taking part in the programme’s projects gathered at this meeting. Here is a short summary of the lecture by guest speaker Elaine Dzierzak. She is Professor for Developmental Biology at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

Elaine Dzierzak presented some of the results of her many years of research on the formation and development of blood stem cells to some 50 other scientists at the kick-off meeting. After a short introduction on the nature of stem cells, Dzierzak dealt with the complex formation process of blood stem cells. Every day the human body produces millions of new blood cells, all of which emerge from the blood stem cells.

Dzierzak is concerned particularly with the following questions: How and where do the very first of these cells form in the embryo? What factors contribute to this? Dzierzak has found already some answers. She has ascertained, together with her research team, that blood stem cells are formed in the dorsal aorta during a short period in the embryo’s development. She could thus lay to rest the long cherished idea that blood stem cells originate in the yolk sac.

Elaine Dzierzak views the future of stem cell research as very positive. This field of study has developed greatly since the year 2000. Like many other scientists, she sees the induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) as a promising alternative to the embryonic stem cells. However, there are still many unanswered questions in this field such as the genetic changes occurring in iPS cell production or the development of tumours. “There is still a long, long way to go before these cells can be used therapeutically,” according to Dzierzak.

Dzierzak studied at the University of Illinois, obtained her doctorate at Yale University and was then engaged in research at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the National Institute for Medical Research in London.

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