This proposal will support travel awards for graduate students, post-docs, and underrepresented and junior faculty to attend and present at a 2.5-day symposium on Engineering Polymers for Stem-Cell-Fate Regulation and Regenerative Medicine at the Spring Materials Research Society National Meeting in San Francisco, CA, April 25-29, 2011. The broad focus of the symposium is to assess how the recent advances in molecular design, synthesis, and micro and nano-scale fabrication of polymeric materials can be integrated with stem cell biology to develop new strategies in stem cell-based therapies and regenerative medicine. In particular, the emphasis will be placed on using novel technologies in polymer science and engineering to control both biochemical and biophysical signals, to regulate these signals in space and time, and to investigate stem cell behavior and fate in such engineered microenvironments and their implications for regenerative medicine.
The objective of this symposium is to define an inclusive community of researchers with interdisciplinary perspectives working at the intersection of polymer science, engineering, and stem cell biology toward the goal of revolutionizing stem cell-based therapies over the coming decade. Thus, the broader impacts of this project are to initiate exchange of ideas and promote new multi-disciplinary collaborations among materials scientists, life scientists, engineers, and clinicians. The project will also enable junior scientists, including graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and junior faculty, particularly those in underrepresented groups, to present their research findings and to interact with the community of established researchers in this field. The event will also publicize recent advances in the design and synthesis of polymeric biomaterials and their use in both fundamental discovery-driven stem cell biology and applied regenerative medicine therapies.
Symposium Organizers Sarah Heilshorn Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University Julie C. Liu School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University SuPing Lyu Medtronic Inc. Wei Shen Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Minnesota Report prepared by Sarah Heilshorn Symposium Objectives Polymeric materials have important applications in regenerative medicine, in which diseased/lost tissues and organs are repaired or regenerated using engineering principals, in the development of tissue engineered constructs to substitute animals for drug screening, and in the design of reproducible microenvironments that serve as models for fundamental biological studies. Polymers not only provide structural support for tissue regeneration, but also play important regulatory roles in controlling extracellular microenvironmental cues to guide the behavior and fate of cells and formation of functional tissues. Stem cells are attractive cell sources in regenerative medicine, and therefore the strategy of using engineered polymers to control stem cell fate has recently received considerable research interest. The ability of polymers to present biochemical and physical cues to cells at the required level, place, and time in a well-controlled manner is the key to the success of regenerative medicine. Rational design and engineering of polymers, particularly on the molecular level, to confer novel material properties that enable such regulation represents an important research direction at the interface of materials and life science. The purpose of this symposium is to bring together the researchers active in this interdisciplinary field of polymer engineering for regenerative medicine to exchange the most current information, stimulate novel ideas, and discuss future directions. Findings and Activities Email invitations were sent to over 300 scientists in the field to make them aware of the symposium and to solicit abstracts from a diverse group of researchers. From the pool of submitted abstracts, 33 were selected to give oral presentations and 14 were invited to present posters (full symposium program is attached as Appendix A). In addition, 11 invited speakers were included in the three-day symposium. All presenters who identified themselves as graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or untenured faculty members were invited to submit applications for travel support. The travel application included a copy of the submitted abstract, a CV with list of publications, and a brief statement that described the need for travel expense reimbursement. Through this application procedure, we were able to provide travel support for 15 individuals: 11 contributed speakers, 1 invited speaker, and 3 symposium organizers. Across all three days, the symposium was very well attended, with 50-120 audience members at each session. The poster session was also very well attended, and the posters were of an outstanding quality. All posters were evaluated by a committee composed of the symposium organizers and selected invited speakers. Based on this evaluation, three posters were selected as being particularly exceptional, and they were forwarded on to the next level of conference-wide competition. Of these, the poster presented by So Young Yoo (University of California, Berkeley) was selected as one of the 10 best posters from over 1600 total posters presented at the Spring Materials Research Society Meeting. The two runner-up poster winners from our symposium, Aysegul Altunbas (University of Delaware) and Ashley Sutherland (Air Force Research Laboratory and Wright State University), were provided travel awards made possible through this NSF grant. In addition to the formal symposium activities, funding from Medtronic and Cengage Learning Global Engineering enabled us to host an open social hour for all symposium speakers and audience members. This event was openly and widely publicized throughout the symposium program in order to attract a diverse audience. The social hour was very successful, with about 40 participants attending. We received feedback that this was a particularly useful event for the students and post-doctoral scholars, who greatly appreciated the opportunity to informally discuss their science with the symposium organizers and the invited speakers. Contributions to Society In order for the promise of regenerative medicine to be realized, efficient and reproducible cell transplantation strategies must be developed. It is highly likely that these transplantation strategies will involve the use of engineered biomaterials to improve cell viability, guide cell development, promote cell organization, and initiate cell engraftment. Therefore, efforts such as this symposium to facilitate knowledge transfer among experts and trainees in the field of biomaterials science will serve to catalyze new therapeutic strategies in regenerative medicine.