View in a browser
  Newsletter Issue 5, 18 October 2016





"Modeling Cell Fate & Development"

7 - 8 November 2016

Matrix Building

30 Biopolis Street, Singapore 138671















To all Members & Friends of SCSS,


newsletter Issue 5 of our biweekly newsletter is now ready.


In this issue we are introducing four plenary speakers to you:


Josuha BRICKMAN, University of Copenhagen, Denmark,


Xin CHEN, Johns Hopkins University, USA,


Hongyan WANG, DUKE-NUS, Singapore


Lena HO, Institute of Medical Biology, Singapore



Important upcoming deadline:

Online registration closes very soon: 24 October

Please register now to take part in this exciting symposium and hear from the speakers and experts directly.


The final programme is available now. View here.

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

To register, click HERE.

Contact us HERE.

The Organizing Committee "Stem Cell Society Singapore Symposium 2016"


New hPSC culture medium for naive-like pluripotency: RSeTâ„¢
Request a Sample!

Featured Speakers  


University of Copenhagen, Denmark

How embryonic stem cells maintain states of indecision


Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are immortal cell lines derived from the peri-implantation mammalian embryo. Both ESCs and the embryos from which they are derived are remarkable, in that individual cells retrain the capacity to begin developmental anew, despite having undergone a degree of patterning or differentiation.

In this talk I will discuss a reversible mechanism by which pluripotent transcription is down regulated in response to Erk phosphorylation. As a result of this mechanism, cells can embark on differentiation while still preserving the capacity to re-establish pluripotent identity.

Biography Lab webpage PubMed

My inspiration for a career in basic research survived several years working as a music journalist and dj. My early focus was on mechanistic studies of basic transcription. During this time I became interested in developmental biology and pursuing the theme of transcriptional regulation in a developmental context. My current group works with a combination of in vivo and in vitro models, Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs), Xenopus and mouse embryos, and is focused on dynamic mechanisms by which transcription factors regulate cell fate choice. We use ESCs as a model to understand these processes and our studies of transcription factor dynamics have lead to new ways of thinking about the nature of stem cell populations and functional concepts such as pluripotency and self-renewal. I did my PhD with Professor Mark Ptashne at Harvard University, where I explored the molecular biology of transcription. I then wanted to understand how transcriptional mechanism could explain differentiation in development and went to do postdoc with Dr. Rosa Beddington.

From the beginning of my post-doctoral period, I used ESCs as an in vitro model for gene regulation in embryonic development. In 2001 I established my own group at the Institute for Stem Cell Research (University of Edinburgh), now the MRC centre for Regenerative Medicine. Since late 2011, my laboratory moved to Copenhagen, and a new international centre for stem cell research, the Danish Stem Cell Centre (DanStem). DanStem is a remarkable centre set up with a funding remit from the Novo Nordisk Foundation to study basic mechanisms of differentiation in stem cell biology.



Johns Hopkins University,


Breaking symmetry -- asymmetric epigenetic inheritance during Drosophila germline stem cell asymmetric division  

Many types of stem cells undergo asymmetric cell divisions to give rise to daughter cells with distinct cell fates: one that retains stem cell identity and another that differentiates. During asymmetric cell division, the genomic information is preserved through DNA replication followed by equal partition to the two daughter cells. A long-standing question has been how the epigenetic information of a stem cell is transferred to the daughter cells.

Using the Drosophila male germline stem cell lineage, our recent studies showed that epigenetic information is inherited asymmetrically during asymmetric stem cell divisions. Our ongoing research is to elucidate how stem cells maintain their epigenetic memory through many divisions and whether the loss of stem cell epigenetic memory leads to diseases.

Biography Lab webpage  

Xin Chen is an Associate Professor at the Biology Department of Johns Hopkins University. I did my graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, with Dr. Janice Fischer to study the signaling pathways in eye development of Drosophila. In Apr., 2002, I joined the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Fuller at Stanford University as a postdoc, where I studied transcriptional regulation of gene expression using Drosophila male gametogenesis as a model system. I started my own lab at the Department of Biology of Johns Hopkins University in 2008. The ongoing research in my lab aims to address how epigenetic mechanisms regulate cellular differentiation pathway. We have made a novel discovery that during Drosophila male germline stem cell asymmetric division, pre-existing and newly synthesized histones are asymmetrically inherited by the two daughter cells arising from stem cell asymmetric division.

Our recent studies demonstrate that abolishment of this asymmetric histone inheritance results in stem cell loss and progenitor cell tumor phenotypes, suggesting that this mechanism is required to ensure distinct cell fates. Our ongoing work focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying asymmetric histone inheritance, as well as the generality of this striking phenomenon. My research has received both federal and private funding agencies, including K99/R00, R21 and R01 awards from NIH and the prestigious Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation.


What is your most memorable career achievement?

There are several in my career, once in graduate school, once during my postdoc and several times during my independent stages, all related to some “weird” findings that I finally found an answer for.

What attracted you to a career in Science?

The freedom to choose the project to study.

What influenced you to pursue stem cell research?

The unique behaviour of stem cells and the commonality with other cells.

What's the best advice you ever had?

Follow your instinct.

What's the worst advice you ever had?

Do safe science.

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?

The best way is to try it yourself and see whether you are passionate about your research. Always be open-minded and listen to your data.


Hongyan WANG

DUKE-NUS, Singapore

Arl2- and Msps-dependent microtubule growth governs asymmetric division of neural stem cells  

Asymmetric division of neural stem cells is a fundamental strategy to balance their self-renewal and differentiation. It is long thought that microtubules are not essential for cell polarity in asymmetrically dividing Drosophila melanogaster neuroblasts (NBs; neural stem cells). Here, we show that Drosophila ADP ribosylation factor like-2 (Arl2) and Msps, a known microtubule-binding protein, control cell polarity and spindle orientation of NBs. Upon arl2 RNA intereference, Arl2-GDP expression, or arl2 deletions, microtubule abnormalities and asymmetric division defects were observed. Conversely, overactivation of Arl2 leads to microtubule overgrowth and depletion of NBs. Arl2 regulates microtubule growth and asymmetric division through localizing Msps to the centrosomes in NBs.

Moreover, Arl2 regulates dynein function and in turn centrosomal localization of D-TACC and Msps. Arl2 physically associates with tubulin cofactors C, D, and E. Arl2 functions together with tubulin-binding cofactor D to control microtubule growth, Msps localization, and NB self-renewal. Therefore, Arl2- and Msps-dependent microtubule growth is a new paradigm regulating asymmetric division of neural stem cells.

Biography Lab webpage  

Hongyan Wang received her PhD from Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, National University of Singapore, Singapore in 2004. She then joined Prof William Chia's laboratory at the same institution as a Research Fellow and focused on establishing Drosophila neural stem cells as a new model for stem cell self-renewal and tumour formation. She joined Duke-NUS Medical School as an Assistant Professor in 2007.

She has then contributed to understanding of brain development and modelling of neurodevelopmental diseases. She is a recipient of Singapore Young Scientist Award in 2008 and National Research Foundation (NRF) fellow in 2009. She is a member of Asia-Pacific Drosophila Board and Associate Editor of PLoS Genetics.



Lena HO

Institute of Medical Biology, Singapore

ELABELA (ELA) is a peptide hormone abundantly secreted by human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). ELA signals in a paracrine fashion in hESCs to maintain self-renewal, and ELA inhibition by CRISPR/Cas9-mediated deletion, shRNA or neutralizing antibodies causes reduced hESC growth, cell death and loss of pluripotency. Global phospho-proteomic and transcriptomic analyses of ELA-pulsed hESCs demonstrate that it activates the indispensable PI3K/AKT/mTORC1 pathway. As such, ELA promotes hESC cell cycle progression, protein translation, and blocks apoptosis upon stress. We propose that ELA constitutes an endogenous growth factor secreted by the human embryo and hESCs to potentiate growth and pluripotency. Later in development, ELA signals via the Apelin Receptor (APLNR, APJ) to mediate cardiac development and in the adult, ELA functions to maintain cardiovascular homeostasis. However, hESCs do not express APLNR, suggesting that ELA acts through an alternate cell-surface receptor to mediate its effects on hESC self-renewal.
Lena Ho holds a PhD from Stanford University, where she uncovered epigenetic mechanisms of embryonic stem cell self-renewal. She completed her post-doctoral training in Bruno Reversade’s lab at the Institute of Medical Biology, A*STAR, where ELABELA was discovered. She was appointed project leader of the Endocrine Peptides Lab in 2016, which aims to build a unique platform with a combinatorial approach to discover and characterize novel peptides encoded by the human genome. This effort is guided at the forefront by disease relevance and therapeutic utility, focusing on peptides required for embryonic development, metabolism, brain and cardiovascular function. The major thrust of the lab is to bring novel peptides from discovery to deployment in the market.
© 2016 Stem Cell Society Singapore