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A retreat from everything but stem cells

Attendees discuss poster presentations at the sixth annual retreat for the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. (USC Photo/Cristy Lytal)

It wasn’t the pristine 27-hole course that drew more than 120 stem cell researchers from USC and beyond to the Desert Princess Golf Resort near Palm Springs, Calif. It was the sixth annual retreat for the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC, which took place on Oct. 20-­21.

The two-day, overnight retreat featured a plenary lecture by Clive Svendsen, director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, about the contribution of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to regenerative medicine, particularly to studying and developing treatments for neurological disorders.

The retreat also included presentations by winners of the first Regenerative Medicine Initiative (RMI) Awards, which provide up to two years of seed funding for multi-investigator research collaborations that harness the full potential of USC-affiliated faculty members. The three winning teams are using various stem/progenitor cells that might lead to future therapies for certain forms of deafness, bone defects and pediatric leukemia.

Many other principal investigators, postdoctoral and graduate students shared innovative research advancing several key areas of regenerative medicine.

Rong Lu, who will leave Stanford University to join USC’s stem cell research center as a principal investigator in January, talked about her new cellular “tracking system” for hematopoietic, or blood-forming stem cells. The system allows for the more effective study of blood and other types of cancers.

Min Yu, who will leave Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School to accept a joint appointment as a principal investigator at USC’s stem cell research center and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in January, discussed how to filter out circulating cancer stem cells from billions of other blood cells to understand and stop cancer’s spread.

USC research associate Hu Zhao and research assistants Yichen Li and Yingxiao Shi gave presentations.

Postdoctoral students who presented research included Mohamed Hammad, Lori O’Brien, Sandeep Paul and Saaket Varma.

PhD student presenters included Wen-Hsuan Chang, Guanyi Huang, Sapna Jain, Erin Moran, Marie Rippen and Yuki Yamaguchi.

The retreat also showcased the USC stem cell research center’s core facilities for stem cell sorting, derivation, culture, iPS programming, imaging and therapeutic screening.

During the cocktail hour, guests exchanged new ideas while voting on their favorite posters, which introduced research opportunities related to the Development, Stem Cells, and Regenerative Medicine PhD program.

Retreat sponsors included the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Amgen, Sanofi, Zeiss, Leica Microsystems, Fluidigm, Lonza and Novogenix Laboratories LLC.

“This year’s retreat was a great success,” said Andrew McMahon, who spearheads the USC Stem Cell initiative and directs the Broad Center. “It helped solidify USC Stem Cell as an interactive scientific community and build relationships with our colleagues at the university and beyond.”

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A retreat from everything but stem cells

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