Scientists from all over San Diego—and beyond—gathered last Friday for Sanford-Burnham’s 34th annual symposium. This year’s theme: Frontiers in Stem Cell Biology for Drug Discovery. The topic was timely, given the recently announced 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, awarded to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for their “discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.” Yamanaka figured out how to turn a normal adult cell, such as a skin cell, into a stem cell that has the potential to become any other type of cell in the body. These special, laboratory-made stem cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
The symposium’s discussions centered on the idea that stem cells –especially iPSCs—can be used to model an individual’s own unique disease in a laboratory dish. These human cell-based models can then be used to test new and existing drugs for their toxicity and efficacy against disease.
Speakers came from Sanford-Burnham, Harvard, UT Southwestern, Mass General Hospital, UC San Diego, Stanford, and more. They talked about using stem cells to study and develop new therapies for conditions such as motor neuron disease, heart disease, autism, brain injury, Huntington’s disease, and spinal muscular atrophy.
We live-tweeted the event. For a snapshot of the day, including interesting tidbits, pictures, quotes, and links for more information, check out the Storify version of our tweets below. Then join the discussion on Twitter — look for us at @SanfordBurnham and #SBsymposium.