The Making of Reprogramming

21 May 2014
Delegates at the 2nd Annual CRA Meeting

The second Cell Reprogramming Australia conference was held on the 5-6 May 2014 at the Melbourne Brain Centre. This year’s conference centered around two main themes, the molecular mechanisms of reprogramming and the use of reprogrammed cells for investigating disease.

Two international speakers, Keisuke Kaji (MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh) and Laurent David (Universite de Nantes) described how they used secondary reprogramming systems to elucidate the various paths that a somatic cell can follow while attaining pluripotency through reprogramming. They showed that stoichiometry and temporal kinetics of reprogramming factors are key parameters that control the route and speed of reprogramming. A third international speaker, Bronwen Connor (University of Auckland) described soon to be published data looking at the generation of induced human neural precursor cells generated via direct reprogramming strategies.

Joseph Gecz (University of Adelaide) outlined how iPSCs can be used to provide insight into X-chromosome linked diseases and Richard Harvey (Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute) discussed how defects in the combinatorial action of transcription factors underlie hypoplastic heart syndrome. Martin Pera (University of Melbourne) described elegant single cell experiments that examined the relationships between self-renewal and differentiation in human pluripotent stem cells.  Geoff Faulkner (University of Queensland) told us about the involvement and potential consequences of retrotransposition in pluripotent stem cells. Jody Haigh (Monash University) described a very useful mouse model for examining pluripotency with conditional and inducible alleles.

There were also a number of presentations by up and coming scientists in cell reprogramming such as Christian Nefzger (Monash University - reprogramming methods) and Kathy Davidson (Centre for Eye Research Australia - wnt in reprogramming) as well as three selected talks by PhD students on X-chromosome disease modeling with iPSC (Claire Homan, University of Adelaide), iPSC for investigating a novel heart disease (Dean Phelan, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) and new insights into cellular memory and plasticity (Jaber Firas, Monash University).

The CRA conference was attended by twice as many scientists as last year - a testament to the rapid expansion of cell reprogramming research in Australia and the increasingly strong links with clinical and drug discovery research. As usual there was lively scientific debate both during and following the talks that continued during the poster presentation sessions and the conference dinner. 

The attendance of 17 local and interstate PhD students and early career researchers was made possible through the generous support of the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia who also sponsored the prizes for the best overall presentations (inclusive of orals and posters) and best conference contributor. These were awarded to Dean Phelan, Claire Homan, Jaber Firas, Patrick Fortuna and Kevin Lau, respectively.

We would also like to thank and acknowledge our other sponsors: Merck Millipore, Life Technologies, Millennium Science and Stem Cell Technologies.

We hope to see even more scientists interested in, or working on cell reprogramming at out next conference in May 2015 which will feature high profile international speakers Philippe Collas from University of Oslo and Jacob Hanna from the Weizmann Institute of Science - it promises to be another exciting meeting next year!

Ernst Wolvetang and Andrew Laslett
On behalf of the 2014 CRA Conference Organising Committee