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  Newsletter Issue 1, 23 August 2016







"Modeling Cell Fate & Development"

7 - 8 November 2016

Matrix Building,

30 Biopolis Street, Singapore 138671







Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

We would like to inform you about the upcoming Stem Cell Society Singapore Symposium
by a series of fortnighly newsletters starting from today.

These newsletters will introduce the invited speakers and hopefully will help to motivate you
to join us during this exciting symposium.

Today's newsletter introduces:


Huck Hui NG, Genome Institute of Singapore


Katerina HADJANTONAKIS, Sloan Kettering Institute, USA.


Enjoy reading about two of our plenary speakers.

To learn more about the symposium, please proceed to our Symposium Webpage.


Important deadlines for the Symposium 2016:

Early Bird registration: 13 September.

Oral abstract submission: 13 September.

Poster abstract submission: 26 September.

Online registration closes: 24 October.

To register, click HERE.

Contact us HERE.

We look forward to welcoming you in Singapore soon!

The Organizing Committee "Stem Cell Society Singapore Symposium 2016"



Featured Speakers  

Huck Hui NG

_Genome Institute of Singapore

Systems biology of stem cells


Embryonic stem (ES) cells are characterized by their ability to self-renew and remain pluripotent. Transcription factors have critical roles in the maintenance of ES cells through specifying an ES-cell-specific gene expression program. Deciphering the transcriptional regulatory network that describes the specific interactions of these transcription factors with the genomic template is crucial for understanding the design and key components of this network. To gain insights into the transcriptional regulatory networks in ES cells, we use chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled to ultra-high-throughput DNA sequencing (ChIP-seq) to map the locations of sequence specific transcription factors.

These factors are known to play different roles in ES cell biology. Our study provides new insights into the integration of these regulators to the ES cell-specific transcription circuitries. Collectively, the mapping of transcription factor binding sites identifies new features of the transcriptional regulatory networks that define ES cell identity. Using this knowledge, we investigate nodes in the network which when activated, will jump-start the ES cell-specific expression program in somatic cells.



Biography Lab webpage PubMed


Huck-Hui NG is the Executive Director of the Genome Institute of Singapore. Huck-Hui NG graduated from the National University of Singapore with a first class Honor degree in Molecular and Cell Biology and obtained his PhD from the University of Edinburgh. He spent the next few years working at the Harvard Medical School as a Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell research fellow. His lab works on different aspects of Systems Biology of Stem Cells. Specifically, his group uses genome wide approaches to dissect the transcriptional regulatory networks in embryonic stem cells with the aim to identify key nodes in this network. This had led to the first paper on the whole genome and unbiased mapping of key transcription factors in mouse embryonic stem cells.

His group also conducted the whole genome genetic screen for human embryonic stem cells. More recently, his lab has begun to investigate the reprogramming code behind the induction of pluripotency in somatic cells. His research work has earned him several prestigious national and international accolades including the Singapore Youth Award (2005 and 2010), the National Science Award 2007, the HUGO Chen’s New Investigator Award 2010 and the President’s Science Award 2011.

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_Sloan Kettering Institute, US


Single cells get together: quantitative analyses of cell lineage specification in the mouse blastocyst  

The blastocyst stage mouse embryo is a paradigm of self-organization and regulative development, where intercellular signaling via fibroblast growth factor-4 (FGF4) is essential for cell lineage specification. Activation of the FGF4-FGFR-ERK pathway induces primitive endoderm (PRE) specification, while in the absence of signaling activity cells acquire a pluripotent epiblast (EPI) fate. We have combined single-cell-resolution quantitative image analysis and single-cell gene expression profiling to investigate how FGF receptors present in the early mouse blastocyst mediate the response to FGF4 in individual cells within the ICM population. We find that despite the PRE-specific expression of Fgfr2 at the mid blastocyst stage, expression of another receptor Fgfr1 expressed by all ICM cells is required for the establishment of a PRE identity.

In addition, Fgfr1 mutants, exhibited elevated levels of NANOG, suggesting that FGF signaling through FGFR1 also is required to establish the primed state of pluripotency in the ICM cells, and for proper EPI specification. Single-cell quantitative image analysis reveals that combinatorial activities of FGFR1 and FGFR2 dynamically regulate NANOG/GATA6 expression in ICM cells to induce stable lineage specification toward EPI/PRE. Additionally, single-cell gene expression profiling of >200 single ICM cells demonstrates that distinct sets of downstream targets are associated specifically with FGFR1 and FGFR2. Altogether, these data lead us to propose a model whereby distinct but combinatorial roles of one ligand (FGF4) and two FGF receptors (FGFR1 and FGFR2) coordinate ICM cell fate choice.

Biography Lab webpage PubMed  

Anna-Katerina (Kat) Hadjantonakis is a Member of the Sloan Kettering Institute, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and a Professor at Cornell University, New York City, USA. She received a BSc in Biochemistry in 1990, and PhD in Molecular Genetics in 1995, from Imperial College, London. From 1996 to 2003 she undertook postdoctoral work at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Toronto, and Columbia University, New York. The overarching goal of her research is to decipher mechanisms underlying cell lineage specification in mammals using mouse embryos and embryo-derived stem cells as experimental platforms.

Quantitative analyses, involving single-cell resolution microscopic imaging and transcriptomics are a hallmark of the approach Kat and her collaborators take. Kat serves on the editorial boards of Developmental Cell, Development, Developmental Biology, BMC Biology and Genesis. She is also a section editor at BMC Developmental Biology and deputy editor-in-chief at Biology Open.

Interview (Read the full interview here)


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

I wanted to know how things worked, and to understand how everything in biology was so aethetically pleasing.

What is your most memorable career achievement??

Let’s not dwindle on the past. I don’t consider past achievements quite as exciting as what one does (or goes) next. I’ve never been to Singapore before. It’s a very 21st century science enterprise. One career achievement is being able to visit. Phase 1 of Biopolis was designed in part by one of my most revered architects, the late (great) Zaha Hadid. Seeing her work alone will be worth the trip!.

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

Too many to mention.

  • They would include publications from Martin Evans and Gail Martin’s labs demonstrating the derivation of self-renewing pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells from mouse embryos in the early 1980s.
  • The subsequent demonstration that ES cells could be genetically modified in culture, differentiated into somatic cell types, as well as being reintroduced into embryos to generate chimeras. And of course the more recent advances in the ease of CRISPRing the genome.
  • The plethora of recent studies which are starting to decipher the transcription factor logic of cell lineage specification and cell state reprogramming, but in particular the 1986 study from the late Hal Weintraub’s lab which was the first demonstration of transcription factor-based reprogramming. Paving the way and 20 years prior to Shinya Yamanaka’s Nobel winning reprogramming-to-pluripotency (iPS cell) 2006 study.
More recent studies, spearheaded by the late Yoshiki Sasai, developing methods for organotypic stem cell differentiation protocols.

What influenced you to pursue stem cell research?

In 2005 I received a Novartis Foundation fellowship which allowed me as a junior researcher to spend a few days in the same room with the ten most influential cardiovascular scientists that time. The meeting was followed by a four month visit in one of the participant's Professor Kenneth Chien's lab at Harvard University. His genuine interest and groundbreaking studies with pluripotent stem cells and the islet-1 cardiac progenitors gave me a real kick start to work with stem cells.

What are the main regulatory issues confronting companies trying to bring stem cell therapies into the clinic?

Too many to discuss, including the provenance of cells, establishing standard operating procedures and quality controls across labs, institutions, and in the community-at-large etc etc.

What would you be if not a scientist?

Perhaps an Architect? I want to know how things are built.

What's the best advice you ever had?

Follow your gut.

What's the worst advice you ever had?

High impact (ie fashion) journal papers are the only ones worth writing and indeed publishing.

What would you tell a student asking for advice whether to pick up a career in the stem cell field?

Go for it, but don't be a lemming.


© 2016 Stem Cell Society Singapore