2013 Annual Malkin Retreat

“…Think about what should be done.”

“Don’t think about what can be done, think about what should be done,” HSCI Co-director Doug Melton, PhD, told the nearly 400 attendees at the Eighth Annual HSCI Malkin Retreat, kicking off a day of talks focused on finding creative ways for “Overcoming Barriers to Restore Tissue Function.”

Elaine Fuchs, PhD, a Rockefeller University professor of mammalian cell biology known for her research on skin, gland, and hair follicle stem cells, delivered the morning keynote address at the retreat, planned and co-chaired by Suneet Agarwal, MD, PhD, and Amar Sahay, PhD. Fuchs explained how parts of the body that require rapid turnover of stem cells, such as mammary glands or the epithelium, are linked to some of the most life-threatening cancers in the body.

Fuchs, a recipient of numerous honors, including the Women in Cell Biology Senior Women’s Achievement Award, urged the young scientists in the audience to be comfortable with being uncomfortable: “Look at the problem you want to solve, not what you were trained to solve,” she told them.

David Rowitch, MD, PhD, a former Harvard Medical School postdoctoral researcher and faculty member who now runs a brain research lab at the University of California, San Francisco, spoke about his innovative approach to change the standard of care for children at risk for neurological problems. He described a Phase 1 clinical trial that found neural stem cell transplants are safe, and thatthe transplanted cells appear to produce myelin, the protein essential for quick communication between neurons.

Sabine Costagliola, PhD, a senior research associate at the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, was the morning’s final speaker, who discussed bioengineering thyroid tissue from stem cells. At lunchtime, 50 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from across HSCI engaged attendees with poster presentations on topics ranging from the examination of estrogen’s role in cell regeneration, to the impact of exercise (via a swim test) on mouse cardiac regeneration.

In the afternoon, the 2011 Seed Grant recipients discussed their progress, and HSCI Executive Committee members Leonard Zon, MD, and Lee Rubin, PhD, spoke about their experiences translating basic research into clinical studies.

During his closing keynote address, Deepak Srivastava, MD, of the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, advised retreat attendees to “pick a problem and stick with it, go deep and have fun doing it.” Srivastava’s 20-year quest to reprogram heart cells began while he was a trainee at Children’s Hospital Boston. His lab has identified a gene with cardioprotective properties that has recently moved to Phase II clinical trials in patients with ischemic heart disease.

In a follow-up survey, all of the retreat participants reported that the event, supported by Tony and Shelley Malkin, either met or exceeded their expectations.