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Development Journal Meeting: From Stem Cells to Human Development

Posted by , on 19 January 2024

Back in early 2013, Olivier Pourquie (Development’s then Editor-in-Chief) and I were working hard to integrate stem cell biology into Development. Reading papers and attending conferences, much of the focus at the time was on how principles of development could be harnessed to improve stem cell differentiation protocols, often with the goal of using those derived cells for more medically-relevant purposes. But we were also beginning to see a new trend emerging: the desire to use in vitro stem cell approaches to really understand human development. Organoids had only recently been developed, and the range of tools available was limited (single cell sequencing was in its infancy), but we could clearly see the potential of this burgeoning field.

From this, the idea for Development’s first Journal Meeting “From Stem Cells to Human Development” was born, and in September 2014, around 120 scientists gathered together at Wotton House in Surrey. The event enabled researchers working on a wide range of organ systems and questions, but all facing a common set of difficulties associated with working with human cells and tissues, to come together and discuss both the challenges and their potential solutions. The event also provided an opportunity to discuss the ethical considerations around working with human stem cells and primary tissues; looking back at my notes from that first meeting, and reading the articles we published as a result of it (Hyun, 2015 and Hermeren, 2015), it’s striking to me that the ethical debate at the time focussed largely on human-animal chimeras – the idea and potential consequences of generating stem cell-derived integrated embryo models were barely discussed. A decade on, and such models are very much at the forefront of the community’s mind.

At the time, there were no other conferences focussed exclusively on human development, and the enthusiasm for bringing this growing community together was clear. To answer this desire, Development has turned this event into a biennial meeting, and we’re delighted to announce that registration for the sixth ‘From Stem Cells to Human Development’ meeting is now open. Having attended every iteration since the meeting series’ inception, it’s been a real pleasure to see how both the field and the community have grown. Work with human stem cells and primary tissues holds huge promise both to understand our own developmental origins and to develop therapeutics, and the rate of progress has been impressive. I’m excited to see what we will learn at this September’s meeting, and I invite those of you with an interest in this dynamic and important field to apply to join the conference!

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