Both the day-long 2018 ASCB Doorstep Meeting on Saturday, December 8, and the Keynote Lecture that evening for the 2018 ASCB|EMBO Meeting will feature discussions of stem cells. In fact, this year’s Keynote speaker helped plan the lineup of presenters for the Doorstep Meeting.

Doorstep Meeting

The title of this year’s Doorstep Meeting, an ASCB exclusive event open to just 200 participants, is “Beyond Homeostasis: Stem Cells Under Stress.” The meeting was co-curated by two leaders in the field of stem cell research—Elaine Fuchs, the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor from Rockefeller University/HHMI, and Sean Morrison, director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute (CRI) at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center/HHMI.

Fuchs and Morrison have designed a meeting that highlights and compares the mechanisms by which stem cells respond to normal tissue regeneration as well as to stress. “One of the most interesting areas of stem cell biology concerns the mechanisms by which stem cells withstand stresses such as tissue injury,” they write in their introduction to the meeting. “So far, most studies of stem cell function have been in normal tissues. Less is known about the mechanisms that maintain stem cells in damaged tissues. Replicative stress and the need to regenerate differentiated cells can deplete stem cells, requiring the induction of distinct mechanisms that ensure stem cell persistence beyond homeostasis.”

The meeting will begin with a talk from Stanford University’s Roel Nusse, “The Origin of New Cells in the Liver.” He will describe his research on Wnt signaling and the hepatocytes found in the pericentral domain of the liver, which act like stem cells. Next, Anne Brunet, also of Stanford, will present “Mechanisms of Stem Cell Aging.” Her talk will specifically focus on the systems that control neural stem cell homeostasis. The morning talks will round out with a third Stanford presenter, Lucy Erin O’Brien, who will offer up “Out of Many, One: Collective Cell Dynamics during Organ Renewal.” She will discuss cell number and cell patterning and the role they play in the dynamics of whole organ tissue renewal, remodeling, and repair.

The afternoon session of the meeting begins with Andrew Brack from the University of California, San Francisco, who will present “Skeletal Muscle Stem Cells: Regeneration and Aging.” His talk will answer the question: How do muscle stem cells resist stress in the face of aging, disease, or injury? Then Valerie Horsley of Yale University will share her fascinating discoveries in “Fat Cells as Active Participants in Tissue Regeneration.” And lastly, Fuchs will present “Skin Stem Cells: Coping with Stress,” Using skin cell epithelium as her model, Fuchs will describe the mechanisms at play when things go right with skin stem cells and result in repair and renewal, and when they go wrong and lead to inflammation and cancer. Fuchs says the goal of this work is to understand the basic cell biology of epithelial stem cells to reveal potential therapeutics for disease.

In addition to these presentations, students and postdocs who submitted abstracts for the Doorstep Meeting will be able to offer “poster teasers” or abstract pitches before the morning and afternoon poster breakout sessions. A selected group of students will present Top Poster Abstracts near the conclusion of the meeting.

Keynote Image

Hematopoietic stem cells persist throughout adult life in the bone marrow, where most blood cells are produced. Leptin Receptor+ perivascular stromal cells (red) and endothelial cells (green) are the main sources of factors required for hematopoietic stem cell maintenance, creating the stem cell niche. (Morrison)

Keynote Lecture

Sean Morrison will give his Keynote Lecture “Niches for Stem Cells in Bone Marrow” on Saturday evening at 6:00 pm and the talk will be open to both Doorstep Meeting attendees and regular ASCB|EMBO Meeting registrants. Continuing on the theme presented by Fuchs at the conclusion of the Doorstep Meeting, Morrison will talk about how the microenvironment in the bone marrow regulates stem cell maintenance and tissue regeneration.

Morrison’s lab studies the molecular mechanisms that make it possible for stems cells to persist in our tissues by undergoing self-renewing division. While one reason to better understand these processes is to promote normal tissue repair and renewal, another reason to investigate them is to see when and where they go awry.

“Cancer is a disease of dysregulated self-renewal, in which cancer cells hijack the mechanisms that stem cells normally use to replicate themselves and inappropriately activate those mechanisms to form tumors,” Morrison explains. Morrison’s research, which has been featured recently in the mainstream media, has shown that blood-forming stem cells take up more vitamin C than other blood-forming cells and that vitamin C is required to promote mechanisms that regulate stem cell function and suppress the development of leukemia.

More Stem Cell Presentations

To further explore the stem cell theme, two of the Minisymposia at the meeting will also focus on these pluripotent cells. Biology of Stem Cells will be held on Sunday from 4:15 to 6:50 pm and will be led by co-chairs David Traver from the University of California, San Diego, and Ruwanthi Gunawardane from the Allen Institute for Cell Science. Topics include creating a stem cell map; mechanism for Wnt-Fzd specificity; hair follicle regeneration; spindle reorientation in stem cells; skeletal muscle regeneration; cell fate in the early Drosophila embryo; and breast cancer stem cell fate regulation. On Wednesday from 8:30 to 11:05 am, co-chairs Dirk Hockemeyer from the University of California, Berkeley, and Aron Jaffe of Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research will lead Biological Insights from Organoid Models of Health and Disease. This minisymposium will cover genetically engineered human cortical spheroid models; 3D culture in brain-mimetic matrices; human mammary epithelia; blood progenitor regulation; and deep tissue engineering and reprogramming.

Mary Spiro

Mary Spiro is ASCB's Science Writer and Social Media Manager.