The future of stem cell research starts here, at the ISSCR Annual Meeting, where more than 4,000 scientists from across the globe convened to review the year’s most significant advances in stem cell research and cell therapy. With an agenda packed with more than 350 scientific presentations and 850+ posters, this interactive, collaborative event brought the industry’s best and brightest together in Boston to celebrate the present and contemplate what may lie ahead.
1. The scope and demand for stem cell research and cellular immunotherapies is increasing
In the 21 years since ISSCR was founded, advances in the therapeutic and technological scope of stem cell research have grown exponentially, as has the demand for allogeneic and cellular immunotherapies. Thanks to guided differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), researchers can produce functional cells with the potential to predict in vivo response to emerging drug therapies, enabling the development of personalized treatments for several genetic, chronic, and degenerative diseases. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are also making an impact, assisting scientists with large-scale computational models for integrative analysis and producing in vitro models that allow in vivo exploration of biological processes – and much more.
This year’s plenary sessions offered attendees insights into cutting-edge molecular technologies, dynamic regulation of stem cell fate and behavior, next generation in vitro models, and the clinical application of gene therapy and editing. At the Keynote Plenary, long-time Ncardia collaborator Christine Mummery received the ISSCR Public Service Award for her ongoing studies on using heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) made from human embryonic stem cells to repair damaged cells following heart attack.
2. Researchers and drug developers strive for precision and enhanced therapeutic outcomes in cell therapy
The research findings shared during the concurrent tracks covered the entire spectrum of stem cell science from cellular identity to disease modelling to clinical application. Speakers presented preliminary results from ongoing FDA clinical trials using targeted stem cell therapy to combat specific disease states, while others shared details of the many studies trying to determine how each specific cell type can be used to improve therapeutic outcomes.
Researchers are looking at new iPSC-based therapies for orphan diseases like succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase (SSADH) deficiency and using hyperimmune chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CAR T) to prevent cervical cancer. One trial is showing great promise for using iPSC-derived neuronal pre-cells to treat Parkinson’s disease, while another is using iPS-derived cells to create functional endothelial models to assist Alzheimer’s research. Numerous studies are tracking the use of iPSC-derived retinal epithelial cells to treat age-related macular degeneration, and scientists in Kyoto are working on an iPSC-derived model of polycystic kidney disease.
3. AI and machine learning may hold the secret for scalable production of iPSC-based cell therapies
IPSCs are notoriously finicky, however, showing much variability in differentiation and a tendency to revert to their somatic origins, and consistent, high-throughput production of iPSCs is still largely dependent on manual slide review and quality control. Some studies are demonstrating the potential for making allogeneic CAR T from iPSCs more scalable, but the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning may hold the secret to boosting stem cell output while preserving cell safety.
Automated high-resolution cell culture imaging methods can rapidly flag cells that are functionally mature, abnormal, unstable, or not yet fully converted while eliminating the risk for human error. Computational models can predict mesenchymal stem cell culture and cell replication efficacy, and machine learning algorithms can enhance iPSC induction from slide images and to support the development of novel applications for cell fate monitoring. These advances are changing stem cell science in unexpected ways, redefining how researchers use technology to discover and refine bold new allogenic and immune cell applications.
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