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  Newsletter Issue 3, 26 August 2015




"Opportunities & Challenges in Stem Cell Based Medicine"

17 -18 November 2015

Matrix Building
30 Biopolis Street, Singapore 138671








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this week's newsletter features two Singapore based speakers, Andrew WAN from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, and Shigeki SUGII from the Singapore Bioimaging Consortium.

The oral abstract and early-bird registration deadline is approaching fast.

Don't miss the opportunity to get you abstract selected and present your work on the podium to the international stem cell community during the symposium.



Oral Abstract and Early-bird registration ends: 11 September 2015


Make sure you don't miss to register early and safe some funds.


A tentative programme has been made available. It's accessible through the symposium web page or HERE.

To learn more about the symposium, follow this LINK.

To register, click HERE.

In case you have any queries, contact us HERE.

The Organizing Committee "Stem Cell Society Singapore Symposium 2015"










Featured Speakers  

Andrew WAN

Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Singapore

The Extracellular Matrix in Reprogramming, Differentiation and Promotion of Stemness


An ECM-mediated mechanism which allows tumor cells to access a less differentiated state would have a significant effect on tumor growth and recurrence. Working with the glioblastoma cell line, U251, we have carried out comparative studies with cells cultured under 2D and 3D conditions, represented by culture on ECM-coated tissue culture plates and electrospun scaffolds, respectively.

Our results suggest that interactions of glioma cells and specific ECM in the appropriate 3D context can promote the stemness of the tumor cells.



Biography Office webpage PubMed


Andrew Wan was born in Melaka, Malaysia. He moved to Singapore on an ASEAN Scholarship in 1988 and subsequently received his Ph.D. degree from the Department of Chemistry, NUS in 1998, working on chitin based biomaterials for hard tissue substitute applications. In his early postdoctoral work, he was involved in developing polymeric conduits for peripheral nerve regeneration at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering. Following that, Andrew did his postdoctoral work in tissue engineering at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, on an A*STAR National Science Scholarship. In 2004, he joined the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology where he is currently a Team Leader and Principal Research Scientist.

At IBN, his team has developed various biomaterial platforms and technologies for three-dimensional cell culture and patterning work, which has led to publications in Biomaterials, Nature Nanotechnology and Nature Communications. In particular, Andrew and his co-workers have pioneered a promising platform based on fibers by the process of interfacial polyelectrolyte complexation, which allows 3D spatial patterning of multiple cell types and their niche microenvironments. In ongoing work, he is pursuing his interest in revealing the collaboration between cellular context and extracellular matrix signaling.


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

I was fascinated by how rocks and minerals of various colours, texture and appearance could be produced by Nature.

What attracted you to a career in Science?

 I was attracted to a job where we can learn something new and useful every day.

Who are your scientific heroes/role models and why?

The Nobel Laureates, Roderick McKinnon and Eric Betzig. If you follow their scientific life stories, these are scientists who took great risks to uncover new scientific knowledge and methods. They were both determined to follow the path and achieve what they had set out to do.

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

Yamanaka’s paper on the induction of mouse pluripotent stem cells. (Takahashi and Yamanaka, Cell, 2006). The study was also very systematic and has influenced my approach.

What influenced you to pursue stem cell research?

My area of research is tissue engineering, for which stem cells are now indispensable.

What do you think are the main issues confronting stem cell researchers at the moment?

The definition of stemness, especially for somatic stem cells, is still evolving.

What's the best advice you ever had?

When wavering between doing and not doing something, just do it.

What in your opinion will potentially be the next major breakthrough in stem cell research?

The discvery of extrinisic factors for stem cell reprogramming.

What do you believe is the most promising direction in stem cell research?

Cancer stem cells and cancer stemness.

From which other scientific fields would you suggest stem cell researchers could benefit the most?

Material Sciences.

What influenced you to pursue stem cell research?

My area of research is tissue engineering, for which stem cells are now indispensable.



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Shigeki SUGII

Singapore Bioimaging Consortium


Molecular Signatures of Adipose-derived Stem Cells: Potential for Metabolic Reprogramming  

Adipose tissue is an expandable and readily attainable source of proliferating, multipotent adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs), holding great therapeutic potentials. Subcutaneous (SC) and visceral (VS) fat depots differ in their pathophysiological contributions to metabolic homeostasis, but little is known about molecular differences between the two depots. In vitro, ASCs derived from SC fat differentiate into mature adipocytes well under standard adipogenic stimuli, whereas ASCs from VS fat poorly differentiate. We hypothesize that at least part of these differences originate from intrinsic properties of stem cells, and comprehensively studied ASCs isolated from human subcutaneous and visceral depots. High content screening assay of over 240 human cell surface markers identified CD10 as a SC-ASC specific marker and CD200 as a VS-ASC marker. We found that expression levels of CD10 and CD200 can predict adipogenic capabilities of respective ASCs. In another study, microarray analysis highlighted that human VS-ASCs exhibit upregulated expression of genes involved in retinoic acid (RA) synthetic

and signaling pathway compared to SC-ASCs, possibly influenced by visceral-specific developmental WT1 gene. The excessive RA level in VS-ASCs inhibits an early, but not late, stage of adipogenesis. Finally, levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) were found to be higher in human VS-ASCs compared to SC-ASCs. Treatment with anti-oxidant vitamin C drastically decreased ROS levels and improved proliferation, migration and adipogenic differentiation of VS-ASCs. Collectively, these results suggest that stem cells can be cellular targets for improving visceral obesity through use of specific cell surface markers, modulating RA pathway, or reversal of oxidative stress. I will discuss the potential of using these molecular markers and factors for metabolic reprogramming studies: bioimaging, screening for cellular phenotypic switch and improved adipocyte maturation, or reprogramming into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells

Biography Website  

Shigeki Sugii graduated from Kyoto University, Japan. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth (U.S.A.), where he studied intracellular cholesterol homeostasis and transport. He then moved to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (La Jolla, California) to conduct his postdoctoral research on roles of nuclear receptors in adipocyte biology and metabolism with Professor Ronald Evans. He was a recipient of Kakiuchi Yoshinobu Memorial Award from Japanese Society for Science and Technology Studies in 2009.

Since January 2011, he has assumed a joint appointment as Group Leader of Fat Metabolism and Stem Cell Group at Singapore Bioimaging Consortium, A*STAR and as Assistant Professor of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Program at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. He also holds a position of Adjunct Assistant Professor at the inaugural NTU Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. His current research interests include the characterization and clinical application of adipose-derived stem cells.



Who are your scientific heroes/role models and why?

My postdoctoral mentor Ronald Evans. He guided us to figure out and take initiative ourselves on what to do. Besides importance of hard work, I learned from him that it is critical to have a good question in mind and courage to plunge into a new area if necessary. He was successful not only in scientific discovery of nuclear receptor superfamily, but also in commercializing such finding so that many global pharmaceutical companies licensed his technologies and a couple of companies were founded.

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

Besides Ron Evans in endocrinology, of course Shinya Yamanaka in stem cells. His seminal discovery certainly motivated me to look into the stem cell, which was totally new to me that time. I was greatly inspired when I had lunch with him, first as a postdoc and second as a PI. While I found he is a very modest person, he is strongly determined for clinical applications of iPS cells

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

The Takahashi & Yamanaka 2006 paper in reprogram-ming. I was stunned to learn that what appear to be terminal mature cells can be reversed back into the primitive state by just four reprogramming factors. Without this paper, I may not have worked on stem cells at all, still focusing on traditional therapeutic approaches of diabetes and metabolic diseases.


What are the main regulatory issues confronting companies trying to bring stem cell therapies into the clinic (your answer may be country specific)?

The regulatory path for stem cell therapies is still quite ambiguous for most countries, allowing dodgy companies or clinics to flow into countries with no or little regulatory oversight and offer ‘unproven’ therapies. This makes it unfair for earnest companies following strict rules and regulations to invest great time and money in delivering therapies efficaciously and safely.

Do you believe stem cells will ever be successful commercially?

I strongly believe it will be, but it will take more time.

What would you be if not a scientist/clinician?

I may have been struggling to become a pop music composer and producer.

What's the best advice you ever had?

You will become what you believe will be.

What's the worst advice you ever had?

Don’t go abroad, you will not find a job back in Japan.

Where do you think stem cell research will be with regards to clinical application in 5-10 years’ time?

I hope to see many trials of mesenchymal stem cells clinically proven for treatment of chronic diseases.

© 2015 Stem Cell Society Singapore