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  Newsletter Issue 3, 20 September 2016




"Modeling Cell Fate & Development"

7 - 8 November 2016

Matrix Building

30 Biopolis Street, Singapore 138671











Dear Society Members & Friends,

We are rapidly approaching our premier event of the year, the 2016 SCSS Symposium! 

This year the theme is “Modeling Cell Fate and Development”. It will be an excellent
opportunity to hear from and meet with experts in the field from Singapore and overseas.

Jürgen Knoblich, one of the nine international speakers, will be giving a keynote lecture
on his breakthrough work using brain organoids to model development and disease. 

Check out the rest of the exciting lineup of speakers on our website

Speakers also featured in this newsletter are:

Clare Blackburn, University of Edinburgh, UK


Yun XIA, Nanyang Technological University, SIngapore.

Looking forward to your attendance and participation at the Society’s annual symposium. 

See you there!

Larry Stanton
Stem Cell Society Singapore


The tentative programme is out now. View here.

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

Exhibition booth sales will end 30 September 2016. More information for Exhibitors


Important deadlines for the Symposium 2016:

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  



Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Austria

Modeling human brain development and disease in stem cell derived 3D organoid culture


The human brain is highly unique in size and complexity. While many of its characteristics have been successfully studied in model organisms, recent experiments have emphasized unique features that cannot easily be modeled in animals. We have therefore developed a 3D organoid culture system derived from human pluripotent stem cells that recapitulates many aspects of human brain development. These cerebral organoids are capable of generating several brain regions including a well-organized cerebral cortex. Furthermore, human cerebral organoids display stem cell properties and progenitor zone organization that show characteristics specific to humans.

Finally, we use both RNAi and patient specific iPS cells to model microcephaly, a human neurodevelopmental disorder that has been difficult to recapitulate in mice. This approach reveals premature neuronal differentiation with loss of the microcephaly protein CDK5RAP2, a defect that could explain the disease phenotype. Our data demonstrate an in vitro approach that recapitulates development of even this most complex organ, which can be used to gain insights into disease mechanisms.


Biography Lab webpage PubMed

Jürgen Knoblich is a senior scientist and deputy director at IMBA. He obtained his PhD from the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen. After a postdoctoral period in the laboratory of Yuh Nung Jan at UCSF, San Francisco, he joined the IMP in 1997 as a junior group-leader. In 2004, he moved to IMBA where he is now senior scientist and deputy director.
His laboratory is interested in the biology of neural stem cells. In the fruitfly, they have identified the molecular mechanism that allows neural stem cells to segregate protein determinants into only one daughter cell during mitosis and to divide asymmetrically. They have demonstrated that defects in this mechanism lead to brain tumor formation. More recently, they have extended their interest to analyzing mammalian neural progenitors and their contribution to brain development.

To analyze those processes in humans, they have established a 3D culture system that recapitulates the early steps of human brain development in cell culture allowing brain pathologies and human specific developmental events to be studied in unprecedented detail.

Jürgen Knoblich has received several awards such as the Wittgenstein prize, the Schroedinger award and the FEBS anniversary award. He is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences and acts on the EMBO council and the editorial boards of Current Biology and the European Journal of Cell Biology.



University of Edinburgh, UK

How to build a thymus – in vivo and in vitro  

Thymus functionality depends on an array of specialized epithelial cells, which arise from the third pharyngeal pouch endoderm.  The forkhead transcription factor FOXN1 is pivotal for thymus formation. We have shown that enforced expression of FOXN1 in an unrelated cell-type is sufficient to convert those cells into functional TEC. 

Remarkably, upon transplantation, these induced TEC can generate an organized and functional thymus that supplies the peripheral immune system with new T cells. Our findings will be discussed in the context of current understanding of thymus organogenesis, homeostasis and degeneration.

Biography Lab webpage PubMed  

Clare Blackburn is a stem cell scientist whose research investigates the development, maintenance and age-related degeneration of the thymus, an essential organ of the immune system.  Her lab focuses on how the epithelial cells needed to sustain thymus function develop and are regulated throughout life, with a particular emphasis on understanding regulation of thymic epithelial stem/progenitor cells. Their overall goal is to contribute to developing improved strategies for boosting thymus function in patients.  Recent research highlights include the demonstration that manipulation of a single transcription factor (FOXN1) can instigate regeneration of the fully degenerated thymus in aged mammals and is sufficient reprogramme an unrelated cell type into functional thymic epithelial cells, able to form a fully functional thymus organ on transplantation. 

Clare did her PhD at Imperial College, London.  She is currently Professor Tissue Stem Cell Biology at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK, having moved to Edinburgh in 1997 after postdoctoral fellowships at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, and at the University of Oxford.

In addition to her research, Clare also has a strong interest in public engagement.  She leads the pan-European project EuroStemCell (see, which brings together more than 90 European stem cell and regenerative medicine research labs into a coordinated effort to engage with European publics about stem cell science and medicine.



Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Science or Fiction: building a kidney in a dish?  

Chronic kidney disease represents a major health issue in modern society. Singapore has world’s 4th highest incidence of kidney failure. During last decade, the advancement of stem cell technology has provided unprecedented opportunities for curing rare diseases and organ regeneration. Induced pluripotent stem cell represents an unlimited cell resource that is capable of giving rise to all cell types inside our body.

We are working towards fabricating kidney organ miniature from human pluripotent stem cells for disease modeling, drug screening, patient sample biobanking, and organ transplantation, with the ultimate goal of developing patient-specific personalised clinical intervention.

Biography Lab webpage  

Dr Xia Yun joined Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor since September 2015. She has been working on in vitro specification of human pluripotent stem cells into multiple mesodermal lineages over the last 6 years. Her work has successfully led to the establishment of a novel method to derive ureteric bud (primordium for kidney collecting system) progenitor-like cells from human pluripotent stem cells. This method has laid the ground for future application of patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells for kidney disease modeling and in vitro nephrogenesis. Dr Xia’s laboratory is working on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying stem cell fate determination and lineage reprogramming with the ultimate goal of establishing reliable and safe strategies for managing kidney diseases in a patient-specific manner.

To address this question, Dr Xia’s laboratory is employing two research schemes. Differentiating human pluripotent stem cells into functional 3-Dimensional kidney organoids presents the primary approach for kidney disease modeling, personalised drug screening, and ultimately autologous transplantation. Alternatively, illustrating the underpinning mechanisms of mammalian kidney repair allows us to develop novel methods to boost the self-repair capacity of adult kidney beyond its regular physiological range. Together, extrinsic cell compensation and intrinsic tissue homeostasis provide distinct and complementary approaches to realize adult mammalian kidney regeneration.


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.

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

Shinya Yamanaka. He established the iPSC reprogramming approach, which revolutionizes our concept of lineage plasticity and cell fate termination.

What influenced you to pursue stem cell research?

The unlimited potential to renew themselves, and to give rise to all the somatic lineages. We scientists somehow need to behave in similar manner.

What do you think is the single most important factor driving or inhibiting a broader clinical application of stem cells?

Heterogeneity of stem cell-derived populations.

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

The combination of in vitro lineage specification and nanomaterial engineering.

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


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

Yes, if you have sufficient passion and dedication.

© 2016 Stem Cell Society Singapore