Manufacturing a cell therapy peace-keeping force, and more

International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting, Media bulletins


It’s Day 3 of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) 2018 Annual Meeting at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre: more than 2,500 stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers, including:

Lab-grown mini-brains make new connections
Fred ‘Rusty’ Gage (USA) is making mini-brains from human stem cells in the lab. But in order for these new tissues to function, they need to become well-connected.

Fred is pioneering research to explore how transplanted human neural organoids (mini-organs) can mature into tissues with blood vessel and nerve connections. This work could lead to methods of replacing brain tissue lost to stroke or disease, and repairing spinal cords damaged by trauma.

New cell therapy a life-saving peacemaker between warring patient and donor cells
A new factory-made stem cell product has been shown to dramatically increase the 100-day survival rates of children with an often-fatal complication of bone marrow transplants—acute graft versus host disease (GVHD). Australian stem cell scientist and Mesoblast CEO Silviu Itescu is announcing the results of a Phase 3 clinical trial treating 55 children suffering from the most severe form of GVHD, a condition in which the patient’s white blood cells attack the transplanted donor cells.

Tracing blood back to its beginnings to tackle leukaemia
Right now, the stem cells in your bone marrow are making one billion new red blood cells per minute. Andrew Elefanty (Australia) is studying both embryonic stem cells and more specialised blood-forming stem cells to reveal how our body makes blood and what leads to leukaemia and other blood diseases. He will reveal his team’s latest insights.

How chemicals control stem cells: to stop Zika, to become pancreas cells, or to prevent cancers
Shuibing Chen (USA) is exploring the chemical cocktails that shape different futures for stem cells. Her research used libraries of thousands of chemicals to see whether specific chemical combinations could be used to control the types of cells made from stem cells in the lab.

She has identified the various chemicals that direct stem cells to become specific cell types, such as those of the pancreas and heart, inhibit the effects of the Zika virus on brain stem cells, prevent diabetes, and fight colorectal and pancreatic cancers.

What zebrafish can teach us about muscle injury recovery
Peter Currie (Australia) is exploring how zebrafish (Danio rerio) regrow muscle. His focus is on the mechanisms of skeletal muscle regeneration by means of self-renewing ‘satellite’ stem cells. He and colleagues established a zebrafish muscle stem cell population, comparable to the satellite cells of mammals. They have mapped the full process of muscle recovery, from injury to fibre replacement.

Pass it on to your weekend colleagues if you’re not working.

  • The beginnings of skin and blood cancers revealed—Leonard Zon, USA
  • ‘Remuscularising’ heart muscle after a heart attack—Michael Laflamme, Canada
  • Restoring sight, making blood clot: gene therapies finally coming to fruition— Katherine High, USA

For more information, visit or Follow @ISSCR or #ISSCR2018.

We’re at the meeting, providing support for Australian media. Tanya Ha is across all things stem cells—contact her via 0404-083-863 or

Or you can contact:

We will keep you posted with highlights each day of the conference.

More about Science in Public

We’re always happy to help put you in contact with scientists. Our work is funded by the science world – from the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes to Nature. We’re keen to suggest interesting people and stories – and not just those of our clients.

If you’re looking for ideas or people for features we know hundreds of science prize winners past, present, and future and are always happy to chew the fat about the developing themes in Australian science.

Feel free to pass these stories along to colleagues. And between bulletins, you can follow me on Twitter (@scienceinpublic) for more science news and story tips.