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  Newsletter Issue 4, 15 September 2013

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"Early Human Development & Fetal-Maternal Medicine"

18 -19 November

Matrix Building Level 2 & 2M
30 Biopolis Street, Singapore 138671

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Dear Members, Delegates, Friends, and Colleagues

Newsletter, Issue 4 is ready for your reading pleasure.....

In this issue we share abstracts, bios and questionnaires of Paul Robson from the Genome Institute of Singapore and of Daniel Messerschmidt from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore with you.

COUNT DOWN: only 64 days to the start of the symposium!!

Information for Exhibitors:

If you are interested in exhibiting with us and showcasing your capabilities, services and products, to your customers, check out your opportunities HERE. Booths are almost sold and there are only very limited opportunities left!

Further Updates:

Symposium hotel: For our overseas attendees, we have negotiated a special room rate at the symposium hotel Park Avenue Rochester which is just across the road and in walking distance to the symposium venue. The hotel is also conveniently located close to public transport facilities such as the bus and the MRT networks. Considering staying in this hotel? Click here for more information.

Delegate Networking Event: We are pleased to announce that a networking event open to all delegates of the symposium will take place on the first evening (18th November). Venue is the Epicentre at Biopolis. Drinks and food will be served to stimulate interactions and communications among delegates.


Poster Abstract Submission:

1 October 2013

Online Registration Closes:

4 November 2013

Poster abstracts can be submitted during your online registration.


To register and submit your abstract, click HERE.

To learn more about the symposium, follow this LINK.

Contact us HERE.

With best wishes and hopefully welcoming all of you at the Symposium in 2 months,

The Organizing Committee Stem Cell Society Singapore Symposium 2013

Featured Speakers  


Genome Institute of Singapore

Modelling early development with human embryonic stem cells


The exact developmental position of human embryonic stem cells has remained elusive. While pluripotent, the dominant view is they are more restricted in developmental potential than their mouse counterparts. Fueling the debate is a contention whether these cells can give rise to true trophoblast, the first differentiated lineage of the developing conceptus. Here we present an improved method to differentiate human ES cells along the trophoblast lineage, with BMP4 induction and FGF inhibition leading cells from an adhesive to an epithelial state, as evidenced by switch-like splicing events.

We characterize pervasive retrotransposon-induced genetic novelties in both the pluripotent and trophoblast lineages leading to altered transcriptomic states. This retrotransposon-based mutagenesis, in addition to syncytiotrophoblast heterochrony, challenge mouse-human comparisons. Our ability to form trophoblast vesicles with functional similarities to the blastocyst argue human ES cells are verging on totipotency and, as such, provide a powerful model to study the developmental origins of human health and disease.

Biography PubMed


Paul Robson received his B.Sc. (Genetics & Molecular Biology) from the University of Guelph and his PhD (Biochemistry) from the University of Toronto working out of a lab at the Hospital for Sick Children. His thesis work was on the molecular characterization of the unusual cartilages that make up the entire endoskeleton of the jawless vertebrates, the lampreys and hagfish. He entered the mammalian development field in his postdoctoral studies at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and since 2002 has been running a lab in the Stem Cell & Developmental Biology Division at the Genome Institute of Singapore. While involved in many of the studies defining the transcriptional regulatory architecture of embryonic stem cells his primary interest is in understanding cell fate decisions in mammalian early embryonic development.

He has done pioneering studies in single cell expression analysis providing insight into the regulatory logic of mouse pre-implantation development. He also ran the molecular karyotyping component of the International Stem Cell Initiative “ISCI2” study which characterized the genetic stability of 125 human ES cell lines over extended culture. Currently his laboratory is the gene expression core lab for ISCI3. In addition to heading the Developmental Cellomics Laboratory he also oversees the GIS-Fluidigm Single Cell Omics Centre developing work flows for single-cell transcriptomic and genomic studies. In November 2011 he and three GIS colleagues received the President’s Science Award for their contributions to Singapore science for their work in the field of stem cell biology.

What was the first phenomenon you can recall that fascinated you to do science?

Every spring (age 6 thru 11) watching toad (Anaxyrus americanus) development occurring in a pond in the back field behind my house. It was a race against time as the pond would dry up by early summer and, to survive, the tadpoles would have to sprout legs before this happened.

What attracted you to a career in Science?

I never thought of it as a career, it has been more curiosity-driven and the initial major attraction was the realization that all biology is encoded in the sequence of DNA.

Who are your scientific heroes/role models and why?

Charles Darwin for his contributions to evolutionary theory and Theodore Schwann and Mathias Jacob Schleiden for their contributions to the development of The cell Theory.

What influenced you to pursue stem cell research?

The utility of embryonic stem cells to study processes of early development.

What do you think about stem cells as a business model?

High risk.

What would you be if not a scientist/clinician?

A teacher perhaps.

What’s do you think of the opinion that stem cells research is "hyped-up" with too many promises and too little deliveries?

A bit of hype is a natural state for something with such great potential. I would also point out that stem cells have been in the clinic since the 1950s with bone marrow transplants.

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Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore


Maintaining genomic imprinting during early development  

During the oocyte-to-embryo transition and early preimplantation development nuclear reprogramming resets the epigenome of both parental pronuclei to a ground state, an essential measure ensuring totipotency. Radical, global DNA demethylation, occurring actively in the paternal and passively in the maternal genome is a prominent feature of nuclear reprogramming, yet this process poses a danger to a subset of methylated sequences that must be preserved for their germ-line to soma inheritance. Prominently, imprinted loci, gene clusters with parent-of-origin specific gene expression patterns, must retain their differential methylation status acquired during gametogenesis throughout embryogenesis and in adult tissues.

We have identified a complex, formed by maternal TRIM28/KAP1 and its binding partners ZFP57 and SETDB1, playing an essential role preventing detrimental demethylation of imprinted genes during reprogramming. The loss of maternal TRIM28 leads to severe phenotypic and epigenetic variability ultimately resulting in embryonic lethality.

Though usually attributed to genetic background variations or environmental influence, we show the phenotypic variability to be derived from early and minute epigenetic variations in single blastomeres.

The, at best, partial rescue by paternally expressed TRIM28 is owed to the methylation-dependent DNA binding of the complex. A full rescue of all developmental defects can however be achieved by mere pronuclear transfer of maternal mutant pronuclei into normal enucleated zygotes, thus timing the requirement of maternal TRIM28 protein to the zygote shortly after fertilization, proving it expendable for oocyte growth and maturation.

Our results not only shed light on the long elusive players protecting imprinting marks in the shifting epigenetic environment of the early preimplantation embryo, but also reveal the long-ranging effects of a maternal gene deletion on epigenetic memory and illustrate the delicate timing and equilibrium of maternal and zygotic factors during nuclear reprogramming..

Biography PubMed  
Daniel Messerschmidt obtained his master in biochemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology and the University of Tuebingen (Germany) where he studied organ formation and protein interactions in nematodes. He then embarked on his doctoral work at the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology (Freiburg, Germany) studying differentiation events in mouse preimplantation embryos. His work on lineage segregation and differentiation in the blastocyst and embryonic stem cells ultimately showed a non-cell autonomous requirement of the pluripotency transcription factor NANOG for primitive endoderm formation in vivo. In 2009 he joined the laboratory of Barbara Knowles and Davor Solter at the A*STAR Institute of Medical Biology (Singapore) to follow his interests in epigenetic aspects of differentiation and early embryonic development. He addresses epigenetic reprogramming during oocyte-to-embryo transition, an essential measure to ensure totipotency in the mammalian zygote and early embryo. In 2013, he was awarded an IMCB Junior Investigator (IJI) position to continue his independent research on epigenetic reprogramming events in the mammalian embryo and pluripotent stem cells.

What was the first phenomenon you can recall that fascinated you to do science?

Making my own gunpowder and setting the garden-shed on fire.

What attracted you to a career in Science?


Who are your scientific heroes/role models and why?

The great explorers of the 19th century - Charles Darwin, Alexander von Humboldt, David Livingstone, etc..

Which scientist/clinician has made the biggest impact in your field and why?

Mary Lion, Azim Surani and Davor Solter all hugely contributed, if not founded the field of epigenetics. Without their ground-breaking discoveries our understanding of epigenetic control would be very limited.

What paper(s) had the most influence on you and why?

The papers that influence me the most are the ones I write myself. Writing makes you reflect on other scientists work as well as your own.

What influenced you to pursue stem cell research?

I study embryonic stem cells as they, though being an in vitro artifact, resemble the pluripotent lineage of the mammalian preimplantation embryo. They serve me as model for differentiation and development.

What are the main issues confronting stem cell researcher?

Stem cell researchers are confronted with the high expectations from the general public as the fundamental problems of developing clinical application are nowhere near as publicized as the hopes a layman sees in the technology.

What would you be if not a scientist/clinician?

A carpenter or cook.

What's the best advice you ever had?

Don’t be afraid to hire someone smarter than yourself.

What’s your motto in life?

Always keep the goal in mind.