Archive by category | Conference blogs

Uncertainty surrounding NIH stem cell guidelines

At the ISSCR meeting in Barcelona, Harvard’s Kevin Eggan told reporters he isn’t sure that any human embryonic stem cells are eligible for U.S. federal funding right now. The principles of the just-released US NIH guidelines are clear on what’s fundable; the details are anything but. And until those details are unclear, Eggan and others are worried that some institutions won’t let researchers use resources acquired with federal dollars; another worry is that institutions won’t let awarded NIH grant funds flow to researchers.  Read more

Germ cells, neurogenesis, and more ISSCR’s first day

I asked program committee chair Ron McKay for the highlights I should look for over the next few days of the ISSCR. He tactfully declined to mention individuals. Instead he said was particularly proud of the diversity. “There’s no single agenda here,” he said, “no club.”  … Read more

Unfinished cathedrals, stem cells, and Barcelona

Yesterday I walked around Gaudi’s beautiful cathedral, Sagrada Familia, still under construction more than a century after it was started. In the vaults and columns, simple patterns and rules are played out in endless variations making beautiful, complex forms. (If you’re reading this blog, you likely thought of organogenesis instead of architecture.) Gaudi invented new techniques to plumb the limits of his craft: for instance, he made inverted models, in which weights hung from the ceiling revealed the load a column could bear.  Read more

Companies have company at stem cell conference

I didn’t expect to find so much industry here, at this year’s World Stem Cell Summitt in Madison, Wisconsin. The companies are diverse, from giant New York–based Pfizer to teeny, tiny start-ups, and so are their goals. Pfizer is creating a new division of regenerative medicine, and the new head, John McNeish, spoke of plans to use stem cells to identify new drug targets and to screen drugs for toxicity and efficacy. They’ve already run over a million compounds through assays that used stem cells (I think mouse embryonic stem cells).  Read more

Stem cell trials: balancing hope and risk

In Madison, Wisconsin, the former US secretary of health bellows: “Some inner hope!” Tommy Thompson yells at the crowd—a room full of stem cell research advocates—preaching to the converted that embryonic stem cells give disease sufferers a reason to believe in a better life.  Read more

Stem cell therapies, ready for success?

Stem cell researchers have a new worry. What happens if the cell-based therapies actually work? “We could have a cure, but there might be a backlash, because we aren’t ready to the economic impact of that ability.” That’s the question that John Wagner asked the 900 or so attendees at a stem cell meeting in Madison, Wisconsin.  Read more

Arrival in Cairns, Australia

The people in the airport keep calling me “love”. Telltale cardboard tubes show who on the airport shuttle bus is headed to the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Cairns, Australia. I start chatting with a young blonde professor from Sweden who is turning embryonic stem cells into neurons, and she laughs as she tells me she sometimes hates human cells. Mice ES can generate neurons in maybe 10 days, but human ones take 20 or even 50.  Read more