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June Member Profile: Meet Dr. Eugenia (Kena) Flores Figueroa

Posted By Connections Editor, Monday, June 30, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dr. Eugenia (Kena) Flores Figueroa is a Research Associate in the Oncological Unit at the Mexican Institute of Social Health. She received her PhD in 2006 in Biomedicine from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Dr. Flores Figueroa has been in the field of hematopoietic microenvironment and mesenchymal stem cells for 19 years. She has been a member of ISEH for 16 years and is currently a member of ISEH's New Investigator Committee.                                                                                  

 

Dr. Flores Figueroa kindly answered some questions for ISEH:                                                                                                                                                      

 

How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells scientific field?                                                                              

 

My first encounter with the field was almost 20 years ago when I saw a hematopoiesis poster outside of the office of my mentor-to-be, Dr. Hector Mayani. He told me that I was about to get into the most fascinating and best research field. He was not lying! As an undergraduate student in his lab, I had the opportunity to work with “the classic” long-term marrow cultures growing myelodysplastic syndomes (MDS) patient’s cells. We found that the adherent layer was producing inflammatory cytokines, and wanted to elucidate which cells were involved. So, for my master’s thesis, I worked with macrophages and stromal fibroblasts cell cultures and found that MDS stromal fibroblasts were producing increased levels of the cytokines. For my PhD, I asked “why”. In 2005, we found that the stromal fibroblasts, or mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), harbor chromosomal abnormalities, but were not clonal. When I finished my PhD, my mentor, Dr. Mayani, offered me a position in his group, and then gave me the opportunity to have my own lab. I had been “a stem cell from one single niche” for most of my career, but a few years later, I felt that it was time “to mobilize”. I began doing some short research stays. My first one was in 2010, at the pathology department at Stanford University. I worked with Dr. Dita Gratzinger, a young and bright hematopathologist and researcher. I have to say that my vision of hematopoiesis completely changed when I saw the first human bone marrow biopsy, allowing me to understand the architecture of bone marrow. Last year I had an amazing opportunity to work in Dr. John Dick’s Lab, where I learnt team work, analytical thinking, and truly saw how much they enjoy doing science.

 

 

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?

 

 My mentor always looked for funding to bring his students to the meetings, and introduced me to ISEH when I was a graduate student. I started on the “right foot” when I won a travel award, and had my abstract chosen for an oral presentation at my first ISEH meeting. Since then, every ISEH meeting has brought many good experiences.

 

 

Who was your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you?

 

Dr. Louise Purton (Associate Director and Lab Head at St. Vincent’s Institute in Australia) is a role model to me. She showed me that you can be a great scientist, a great mom, and a great person all-in-one.  She always has 5 minutes to help someone, to respond to an email, and to give advice.  I met her  at a small conference in San Francisco in 2007. Since then, we always meet at ISEH. We have not worked together on a project (yet), but she has been the one who opened my eyes to networking. She has also helped me with career decisions.  Before I met her, all I did at the meetings was “hang around” with my lab members and stand as a soldier in front of my poster. She introduced me to the New Investigators Committee, and always introduces me to other scientists at the meetings.

Of course, it will not be fair if I did not mention my mentor and boss, Dr. Hector Mayani.  He has always pushed my career and supported my ideas. He is the reason why I am in this field. In addition, having the opportunity to work in Dr. John Dick’s Lab has been amazing. John is not only a great scientist, but also a great person. He was kind enough to listen to me and believe in the project, he is a great inspiration and a role model.

 

Describe your lab or work environment:

I have a small sized lab, and I try to work hand on hand with my students.

 

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility?

 

I am helping by inspiring them and transmitting my passion for science. I tell them that it is a job that you enjoy, and you are proud of, but it does not come easy, you have to overcome many challenges and failures. So you have to love what you do, or better not do it.

 

There are a lot of interesting aspects of this scientific field; what do you find the most exciting?

 

The speed of the discoveries since 2010 (starting with the paper from Nagasawa T), as well as the use of 2 photon microscopes.

 

What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab/facility?

 

I am working on the characterization of the bone marrow architecture in different models.

 

Given your experience in the field, how have you seen the field change in the last five years?

 

From osteoblasts to endothelial cells, to reticular cells, and back to osteoblasts – the race to find the stem cell niche is astonishing!

 

 

It’s clear that the field is going to continue to evolve at an amazing pace. How do you see it changing over the next five years?

 

I think there are going to be new models to study hematopoiesis, and more specifically the stem cell niche.

 

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?

 

Elucidating the hierarchy of MSCs and finding markers to map them. We are now doing cell therapy with MSC, but there are still many basic questions to be answered. I think that there needs to be more encouragement for basic projects.

 

 

Does your lab have any big studies or projects planned in the near future?

 

It's hard to think of any project as big or small as you never know where a project will take you. In terms of collaboration, I am starting some interesting ones that I hope will turn out to be big studies, not only in size but in importance.

 

Why did you decide to pursue your research career in Mexico?

 

I did not- or at least not consciously-.. When I was doing my Master's degree, my dream was to do my PhD in the United States. I visited Dr. Hal Broxmeyer’lab in 1999. I will always remember that he was so kind to speak with me and show me around. However, instead of going to his lab, I got married. We still joke about that when I see him at ISEH meetings. He asks, “are you still married?” And I say – yes. "So it was worth it," he tells me. Life is an experiment without controls, we never know what would have happened if we chose a different path, but we do have the power to make the best of our decisions.

 

What are the challenges and the rewards of working as a researcher in your country?

 

The number one reward is that you are contributing to grow the stem cell field in your country. The advantage to do science in Mexico is that your salary does not depend on your grants. Your salary comes 100% from your institution (a hospital or university or research center). In my entire career I have never seen a lab "disappear" because they did not get a grant one year, as I have, unfortunately, seen it in other countries. The challenges are the delays on getting your reagents and equipment; it could be months or even a year to get something.

 

 

How would you describe the funding climate in Mexico for biomedical research?

 

One of the good things about Mexico is that it is not going through an economic crisis – it has always been in one, so we are used to working on tight budgets. Overall, I can say that I have never seen a good lab struggle for grants.

 

What advice do you have for new investigators that are considering to return to Mexico to conduct research?

 

To never compare your life (personal and scientific) in Mexico to those living in a first world country. It is all about perspective: there is no right or wrong, better or worse – it is just different. It is like a HSC missing osteoblasts in the spleen (unless someone tries the Wolf and Trentin experiments, of course).

 

 

What advice do you have (if any) for your government to recruit high level researchers?

 To change customs laws, to help reduce the cost and time of import, change tax laws, and to encourage the private sector to invest in research.

 

 

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?

 

Its people and its focus on new investigators. 

 

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?

Because of the great opportunity to network, and to present and discuss my science. 

 

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

Watching my mentor, along with my most admired scientists, dance the “chicken dance” at the Tampa ISEH meeting.

 

 

What are the duties and rewards of being a member of the New Investigator Committee?

 

The duties are to help organize webinars and social media, to have a monthly conference call, to organize the committee's activities for the ISEH meetings, and to contribute to Connections.

 

As for rewards, I have learned how to collaborate, and the necessary tools. I love that our conference calls are straight to the point, always on time, and always have a follow up (now I copy that to my own projects). I have been able to meet such amazing students, postdocs, PIs and ISEH administrative staff. I have the opportunity to write for Connections, and learn from other new investigators (Teresa and Peter) and from the editor, Carolina Abramovich, when they edit my work.

 

What are your:

 

Hobbies? Writing and traveling. I also enjoy taking classes on Coursera (www.coursera.org) (I recommend “Scientific Writing and Public Speaking”), and participating in scientific blogs.

 

Favorite book(s)? Purpose Driven Leadership by Rick Warren.

 

Favorite movie(s)? I do not have a favorite one, but I love looking for quotes from movies – even children’s movies.

 

If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

 

Steve Jobs. I enjoy watching his interviews and I often use his quotes in my talks. He had great vision.  I think that this is one of the best qualities someone can have: to see beyond your eyes and to obtain and create the resources to make it happen. The most recent quote that I used is: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains"

 

 

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April's Member Profile: Meet Dr. Trista E. North

Posted By Connections Editor , Friday, May 2, 2014
Updated: Monday, April 28, 2014
Trista E. North, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Pathology at Harvard’s Medical School in the Department of Pathology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She has dedicated over 18 years to the field of hematology and stem cell research, and has spent 6 of those years as an ISEH member. She is the newest addition to the Editorial Board of Experimental Hematology.

 Dr. North has lent her considerable knowledge and experience  to the ISEH Board of Directors, the ISEH publications committee,  and various abstract review committees for ASH and ISSCR. As a  full member of the Harvard Cancer Center, Dr. North focuses her  research efforts on hematopoiesis and HSC  regulation/transplantation. 

 Dr. North graciously answered some questions for ISEH.

 How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells  scientific field? 
 I started working in the field of hematology when I joined the  lab of Nancy Speck as a graduate student. My project was to characterize the normal role of Runx1 in hematopoiesis using a lacZ knock-in mouse. Prior studies had indicated it was a fusion partner in leukemia, and knockouts resulted in loss of definitive hematopoiesis. We found it was expressed in the cells with hemogenic potential in the recently (at the time) identified AGM, and demonstrated its expression marked AGM cells with adult-repopulating hematopoietic stem cell potential. 

And then how were you introduced to ISEH? 
I was introduced to ISEH via colleagues in my postdoc lab as well as those whom I regularly saw at other meetings, and was encouraged to attend. My first meeting was in Boston and I was immediately surprised by the level of familiarity I had with the attendees from having met many of them previously at other occasions or read all of their prior work. I was also surprised and impressed with the generally open and constructive interactions between participants - it felt instantly like a family reunion.

Who was your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you? 
I think both my graduate advisor (Nancy Speck) and postdoctoral mentor (Leonard Zon) were hugely helpful toward my growth as a new investigator. 

Nancy had me jump right in with both feet and really got me invested from day one with my project. She taught me how to ask relevant questions and, probably more importantly, how to follow through on experiments that didn’t go the way we anticipated from the outside. I really learned to keep my eyes wide open and follow the data rather than second-guess my results. She also was an amazing role model in terms of presentation organization and speaking skills, and I try to pass on what she taught me to my own group. 

Len taught me how to be independent, how to push the boundaries of what I knew and how to ask for help when things were out of my reach. He did an amazing job helping me find my way into the spotlight - he had a great knack for knowing what would be the most interesting or exciting outcome. He really taught me how to move a project forward in a manner that wasn’t so linear as to skip the interesting tangents, but nonetheless focused toward a logical goal or application. Len also showed me the value of networking and salesmanship - he was a firm believer that the ability to communicate a good story was equally as important as discovering it in the first place, and made sure we were prepared to discuss our findings at any moment. 

Perhaps most importantly, both Len and Nancy were accessible whenever I needed them, easy to talk to when I had questions and concerns (or was simply excited about a new finding), and both of them were quick to share credit with me when discussing my data. I think their willingness to share credit made it much easier to transition out on my own as people were already familiar with me as a person, not just with papers on my work.

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility? 
I really try to take what I learned from both Len and Nancy and pass it on to my students and postdocs. Probably most importantly, we work a lot on being able to take ownership of ones work and communicate data - both the details and big picture - effectively to lab mates as well as at meetings (which I always encourage everyone to attend). ISEH in particular is fun as there are so many huge names in the field that will come right up and talk to you at your poster - everyone is so excited to put faces to the names they know and have a meaningful discussion with someone they admire, which in a lot of cases provides both inspiring and helpful comments.

There are a lot of interesting aspects of this scientific field; what do you find the most exciting? 
In general, I like that the field is always evolving. I also feel like we are at such an advantage in the hematopoietic field in terms of what we know, and what we can do for assays that the sky is really the limit. I am excited about the more integrative studies that are going on currently. Biology is very interconnected, and while I appreciate that we sometimes have to take things apart to understand their function or potential, I do like that we are now moving toward a more integrative understanding of HSC regulation - one that assumes multiple cell types play non-overlapping and equally relevant regulatory roles, and takes a look at feedback, spatio-temporal input and HSC extrinsic pathways that are unlikely to be static to allows us to integrate seemingly conflicting data and really begin to understand what is happening in vivo.

What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab/facility? 
We use the Zebrafish as our primary model and I have to say I am excited by our ability to be holistic. I think some of our projects that look at the interplay between metabolic, hormonal and nutritional input with traditional transcriptional or growth factor regulators is important to our understanding of mechanisms that are likely to modify function or outcome in vivo. These interactions may help explain why basic knock-down/overexpression studies do not always show one-to-one correspondence with what many regulatory factors seem to do in the live vertebrate embryo or adult, including contributions to hematopoietic disorders or leukemia.

Given your experience in the field, how have you seen the field change in the last five years? 
I think people are becoming more willing to not see everything as so black and white - that there is one relevant factor and others are not relevant. Instead, I think many in the field are appreciating that the production and maintenance of the blood system is so fundamental that the body has evolved multiples ways to regulate it: to get it going to the right level, to keep it in check and to ensure that all lineages are being covered, meaning that there will actually be surprisingly few things that can completely eliminate its function below a baseline (erythroid/myeloid) level in order to keep the organism alive.

It’s clear that the field is going to continue to evolve at an amazing pace. How do you see it changing over the next five years? 
I think it will continue to be more integrative, more systems-oriented than single factor driven.

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed? 
I think we still haven’t quite achieved the ability to regulate cells ex vivo without disturbing their long-term potential to allow an efficient production of HSC or lineage specific replacements beyond donated cell units. Related to this, despite a growing knowledge of factors that can influence HSCs or their differentiation capacity - with the exception of a select few cases - we really haven’t figured out a way to harness that knowledge to “fix” hematopoietic disorders or stop leukemia progression or recurrence.

Does your lab have any big studies or projects planned in the near future? 
We have a lot of fun things on going, but most are still too early in the process to predict their scale and/or whether they will be impactful at this time.

How would you describe the funding climate for your specific type of research? 
While I think hematology is in general well supported, I do get the impression that the funding climate is still quite tough. It is nice that the NIH finally has a budget and some larger organizations are recognizing the needs for bridge-type funding, but it is still hard - particularly for those who are still on the earlier end of being independent. There is huge competition for smaller awards, and a very abbreviated window for most new investigator funding (unfortunately not always reflecting the current length of a typical postdoc) which can make it difficult to sustain the lab at a productive size in the gap between start-up funding and significant R01 or equivalent levels of support. 

What advice do you have for new investigators entering this scientific field? 
I think you have to follow what you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to try things that may be difficult or for which the linear relationship isn’t immediately clear. I think we often find the most exciting discoveries when biology doesn’t behave as we might have anticipated, so it is always good to move forward with an open mind.

What do you find most valuable about ISEH? 
For me, I think the most valuable part of belonging to ISEH is the ability to connect with others in the field in a more meaningful way. You often see people year after year at meetings and really get to know those in your area as well as those who may work on topics you stumble into during the course of your research. The science at the meetings is always top notch and 9.5/10-times almost completely unpublished so you get a real feel for what is on the forefront research-wise. It is just much more intimate than other meetings in related topic areas so I think you really get to know people and because of that you get much more constructive feedback about your own data, which can make a huge difference in the trajectory of your project and career.

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?
I go for the science - all the new cutting edge things that are going on - as well as to catch up on ongoing projects in my colleagues and collaborators labs. I always find someone whose data dovetails with ours, or who has a new reagent that would be really helpful, or simply meet someone who’s research I have read about for years. The size really aids the exchange of ideas and personal interactions.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory? 
That is tricky; I have had so much fun at all of them!

Why did you decide to become a member of the Editorial Board of Experimental Hematology?
I wanted to become a board member as a way to give back- the meeting has been so helpful to me in terms of making connections that I wanted to do what I could to help keep things moving in the right direction.

What are your:

Hobbies? 
I love to sing- I’ll listen to any type of music and will sing anywhere full voice. I also like to set new words to nursery rhymes or popular songs and sing about how much fun it is to do chores or why my children should behave- it makes everyone laugh, but I have no recollection of what I said almost the moment it leaves my mouth…

I also like to play in the garden- it is always a surprise what will work and what won’t but looks nice regardless.

Favorite book(s)?
That is a tough questions, I don’t think I have just one- I love to read. I was a big fan of the Harry Potter books- read them in grad school (while running the FACS machine, sorry Nancy!). 
Oh, Tess of the D’Ubervilles- have loved it since they forced me to read it in the 10th grade. I read it again every few years or so and I am always impressed that despite of everything, she keeps trying to make everything work and remains optimistic- I guess I have a similar bent…

Favorite movie(s)?
Serendipity. Love Actually. Groundhog Day. Les Mis. The Natural. It always has to work out in the end for the main characters or I don’t like the movie…

If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
I’d love to see all of my grandparents again to show them that I turned out OK. I think at times they might not have been so sure it would have all worked out. They almost never completely understood what I was talking about when it came to science, but always listened patiently and were enthusiastic supporters!

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Meet Dr. Gay Crooks: The newest Associate Editor of Experimental Hematology

Posted By Connections Editor , Friday, February 28, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2014

Gay Crooks, M.B., B.S. (Australian form of MD)
Professor, Rebecca Smith Endowed Chair
Departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, and Pediatrics
David Geffen School of Medicine
Co-Director, Broad Stem Cell Research Center
Associate Director, Cancer & Stem Cell Biology Program,
Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

University of California, Los Angeles
Office: 610 Charles E. Young Drive, East
Terasaki Life Sciences Building, Room 3014
Los Angeles CA 90095
Phone: (310) 206-0205
fax: (310) 206-0356
gcrooks@mednet.ucla.edu

Dr. Gay Crooks is an eminent professor in the departments of Pathology, Laboratory Medicine, and Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine in the University of California, Los Angeles. She is also the co-director of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center and the Associate Director of the Cancer & Stem Cell Biology Program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Crooks has been working in the field of hematology and stem cell research for 24 years, and has been an ISEH member for 20 of those years. She has served on the ISEH Board of Directors, as Chair of the ISEH Awards Committee, on the ISEH Membership Committee and  recently has become an Editor of Experimental Hematology.

Dr. Crooks uses her limited spare time to volunteer her expertise and experience to many other distinguished scientific boards and publications, including the editorial boards of BLOOD journal and Human Gene Therapy. She has also served as the Chair of the ASGCT Embryonic/Somatic Stem Cell & Tissue Engineering Committee.

Dr. Crooks kindly answered some questions for ISEH.

 How did you find your way to the scientific field of hematology and stem cells?

I spent the research part of my fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. I was working on a project on gene transfer in Hematopoietic Stem Cells, and I became fascinated in the biology of these unique and rare cells.

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?

My mentor introduced me to ISEH early in my research fellowship.

Who was your most influential senior investigator or mentor and how did he or she help you?

I really have two mentors: Donald Kohn and Robertson Parkman. Donald Kohn has been my research mentor and colleague for 20 years. He taught me the scientific method and provided me with the resources to grow as an independent investigator. He has been extremely generous with his time and very early on he allowed me to develop my own ideas. He has also been a great role model in translational research. Robertson Parkman is a senior physician scientist and was head of the BMT division at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. He has inspired me with his energy and insights about how science and research can impact patient care. He is a brilliant thinker and has always been incredibly generous with his time and support.

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility?

I try to understand the personal goals of my mentees, from graduate students to junior faculty and to create research projects that best answer their interests and needs. I think that perhaps the main thing I can do to encourage them in their research career is to help them see the joy and integrity in the process of scientific discovery.

There are a lot of interesting aspects of this scientific field; what do you find the most exciting?

Hematopoiesis is an exquisitely fine-tuned and dynamic system. Fortunately, a huge body of work over the past 50-60 years has provided us with a powerful framework for understanding the most basic questions in biology while also a clear clinical relevance for answering those questions. .

What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab/facility?

We have lots of great projects in the lab at present. For example, we are engineering human thymus tissue to implant into mice to create the microenvironment required for human T-cells to grow efficiently. We are also studying how to manipulate gene expression in human ES cells to produce Hematopoietic Stem Cells.

It’s clear that the field is going to continue to evolve at an amazing pace. How do you see it changing over the next five years?

The recent revelations in gene regulation are changing our view of how genes are controlled and are expanding dramatically the questions that can be asked regarding regulation of developmental process such as hematopoiesis.

The field is rapidly incorporating the notion that the overlay of non-coding regulatory sequences, including LiNC RNAs and microRNAs as well as RNA splicing mechanisms, are at least as important as the protein coding genes that they regulate. Hematopoiesis is a very powerful tool to study these regulatory networks, as the differentiation process is so well understood. In addition, so many years of research have created very elegant protocols to isolate cells at different stages of development and a large array of assays to demonstrate function.

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?

The challenges are very similar to other fields, a combination of scarce resources (from reduced funding) and the imperfect process of peer review.

Does your lab have any big studies or projects planned in the near future?

We are working on how to improve human lymphoid development from stem cells. Clinical ways of improving hematological expansion and function after chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation have mainly focused on cytokines that promote myelopoiesis (e.g. G-CSF) and erythropoiesis (e.g. erythropoietin). Very little research has focused on ways to improve lymphopoiesis. However, as lymphoid recovery is much more delayed than the recovery of neutrophil function and the delay creates significant clinical risks, there is a real need to develop strategies to speed the functional recovery of lymphopoiesis.

How would you describe the funding climate for your specific type of research?

It is very difficult for everyone to get funding but the biggest problem is the uncertainty and inability to plan long term, that comes with short term funding and also with unexpected cuts in budgets of awarded grants. The lag period of applying for grants and receiving funding is another major issue for each labs planning. It will be a tragedy, and a waste of the years of previous investment, if all the tools that basic science has created cannot be applied to the field of biology and medicine due to the competing priorities of the Federal Government.

What advice do you have for new investigators entering this scientific field?

Even though the field is very mature scientifically (relative to others), I think there are entirely new questions opening up from the use of new tools to examine gene regulation and other basic questions. I would also suggest that trying to link your work to human hematopoiesis will open up more opportunities for research funding.

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?

The society has a clear focus on the scientific field that most interests me and provides all of us in the field a foundation for the history and for the future of the discipline.

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?

I enjoy the chance to talk about great science with wonderful colleagues.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

Spending time over red wine with Christa Muller-Sieburg on the harbor cruise at the ISEH meeting in Vancouver in 2011.

Why did you decide to become an Associate Editor for Experimental Hematology?

I believe that Experimental Hematology is uniquely placed in the scientific literature through its focus on the basic biology of hematopoiesis. It also has a 40-plus year history and avid readers. I am happy to bring to the journal my background in the field in of hematopoiesis, and specifically in human hematopoiesis in which there are still many important questions to answer.

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Meet Anna E Beaudin - New Investigator Award Winner 2013

Posted By Connections Editor, Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Updated: Monday, December 23, 2013

Anna E Beaudin
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biomolecular Engineering
University of California, Santa Cruz
Phone: (831) 502-7317
Email: annaebeaudin@gmail.com

Anna Beaudin has spent three years studying hematology and stem cells as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz. She has been an ISEH member for two years, beginning in 2011 when she submitted an abstract and made a short presentation in Vancouver. Her areas of expertise are hematopoiesis, stem cells, development, neural development, nutritional science, and metabolism. Her educational credentials include a PhD in Nutritional Science and Molecular Nutrition from Cornell University, a M.Sc. in Psychology from Brown University, and a B.A Magna Cum Laude in Psychology from Cornell University.

Anna enjoys attending the ISEH Annual Scientific meetings for the scientific content, the format, and the fact that there are ample opportunities for young investigators to present their work. She values that she has made a lot of good connections and hopes to continue doing so in the future.

Anna kindly answered some questions for ISEH.

Tell us broadly about your post-graduate education and about the experience of being a post-graduate fellow.

I have had an unusual graduate and post-graduate education in that I have switched fields several times. I did my bachelors and masters’ degrees in behavioral neuroscience, my PhD in folate metabolism and molecular nutrition, and now my postdoctoral training is in stem cell biology and hematopoiesis. In some ways this can be seen as a disadvantage, but I feel that it has given me a breadth that is somewhat unusual and helps me to see the bigger picture in my daily research.

Who has most influenced you to become a scientist, and how did they influence you?

My husband is probably the person that has most influenced me to become a scientist. A scientist himself, he has a very sincere love of science and discovery, and shared this with me at an early stage of my training.

How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells scientific field?

After my PhD, I wanted to move into stem cell research, and I initially became involved in research on cardiac stem cells. However, once I was in the stem cell field, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the hematopoietic system was the best system for studying stem cell function.

What is the overall aim of your research?

I am generally interested in studying developmental hematopoietic pathways and how perturbations of developmental hematopoietic pathways influence immune development and disease outcomes.

Tell us a little about the subject of your presentation.

My presentation focused on the discovery of a novel, developmentally restricted hematopoietic stem cell that I have found can support long-term multilineage reconstitution upon transplantation into an irradiated adult recipient but does not exist in situ in an adult. I’ve also shown that this novel HSC is responsible for generating unique subsets of immune cells during development. We discovered this stem cell population using a lineage-tracing model recently characterized in our lab.

What is the most exciting or intriguing result you’ve gotten so far?

One exciting implication of my recent finding is that we’ve shown with our lineage tracing model that just because a cell can reconstitute the blood system of an adult upon transplantation does not necessarily mean that it is an adult stem cell. I think this finding challenges the paradigm that we’ve used to define when and where adult stem cells arise during development.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your research?

Being patient and realizing it always takes longer than you anticipate. I’m also a perfectionist, so I have always been my worst enemy and my worst critic and have had to learn to deal with myself!

What are you working on most intensely right now?

I’m working very hard to wrap up a few last experiments to publish my paper. This project was also recently funded by an RO1 so there are many new avenues that I am very busy investigating, including developmental origin and lineage potential of this novel HSC population.

There are a lot of interesting aspects of this scientific field; what do you find the most exciting?

I’ve always been interested in development for a reason – I think development is fascinating because there is still so much to learn. We have learned so much about developmental hematopoietic pathways over the last couple decades, but I think the difficulty inherent in studying development makes it that much more exciting.

In your field, what do you hope we will know in five or 10 years that we don’t know now?

One of the biggest challenges and aims in the field is to be able to derive definitive HSC from pluripotent cells. I am a firm believer that we will only achieve that goal by better understanding and defining developmental hematopoietic pathways, and that is a goal I hope to contribute towards.

Who is your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you?

I have been very fortunate to have had a series of fantastic, supportive mentors throughout my training. That includes my current mentor, Dr. Camilla Forsberg. She provides me with a ton of support but also allows me the independence and flexibility to be creative and enjoy my science. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor.

What are your future career plans?

I hope to have my own lab one day soon.

What general advice would you give a young person considering a career in science?

Find a research topic that matters to you! If you’re not interested in your research topic, it’s going to be a very long haul. I have always been very excited about what I’m doing, and when I wasn’t – I’ve switched fields!

What are the results of a scientific career that makes it worthwhile and exciting?

I truly enjoy the daily intellectual challenge that a scientific career brings. Being able to use my brain in new and exciting ways every day is a real treat.

How were you introduced to ISEH?

I became introduced to ISEH when I first attended the Vancouver meeting in 2011. I was new to the field and I submitted an abstract and gave a short talk – I thought it was a great meeting.

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?

ISEH is highly focused on reaching out to young investigators. As a young investigator I have made a lot of connections with more established investigators through ISEH, which I really appreciate.

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?

I really enjoy the scientific content, the format, and the fact that there is ample opportunity for young investigators to present their work. I also really like the people and the atmosphere – very collegial and friendly. I have made a lot of good connections and I hope to continue doing so.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

The evening cruise through the Vancouver Bay in 2011 was amazing.

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Meet Karin Klauke - New Investigator Award Winner 2013

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, November 1, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013

Karin Klauke is a PhD candidate working in the Laboratory of Ageing Biology and Stem Cells at the European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing, a part of the University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands. She has been in the stem cell research field for 6 years, and an ISEH member for 5 years. She first joined ISEH when her supervisor Gerald de Haan suggested that she submit an abstract about her research to present at the ISEH meeting in Athens, Greece. Klauke was selected to make a presentation at the meeting, her first outside her laboratory.

Klauke enjoys attending the ISEH Annual Scientific meeting for the networking opportunities they offer for young scientists to interact with PI’s. She also values the opportunity that the ISEH meetings present for staying up to date with new research in her field.

Klauke kindly answered some questions for ISEH.

Tell us about your graduate education and the experience of being a graduate student.

I started University in 2001, and studied Biology in Groningen. In the first year we had to take all kinds of Biology courses including courses like Ecology, which did not interest me much. After the first year we could specialize in a few fields, and I chose Molecular and Medical Biology.

Who has most influenced you to become a scientist, and how did they influence you?

There is no particular person in my life that influenced me to become a scientist, although as a child, I was always fascinated by the story of the apple that fell from the tree that gave Isaac Newton the first clue about the existence of gravity. I didn’t think much about ‘becoming a scientist’ until I started thinking about going to University. In high school I always liked my science classes and did well in them.

My mother always tells me that as a young child, I could study small objects (like insects) for a long time. So I was just curious about everything.

How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells fields?

During University I enjoyed these classes the most. Lectures about stem cells and their ability to reconstitute damaged tissue inspired me. Stem cells are really important for life, and hold great promise for regenerative medicine.

What is the overall aim of your research?

I just finished my PhD thesis on ‘epigenetic regulation of normal and malignant hematopoiesis.’ I will defend it on October 23.

Epigenetic mechanisms help to maintain the characteristic gene expression profile of stem cells, or to drive changes in gene expression that accompany the transition from hematopoietic stem cells to terminally differentiated blood cells. Our aim is to further our fundamental understanding of the epigenetic machinery that distinguishes hematopoietic stem cell self-renewal divisions from differentiation divisions. I studied Polycomb proteins that function in large Polycomb complexes, termed Polycomb Repressive Complex 1 and 2. Polycomb complexes can be constitutionally distinct and functionally complex, since for every core protein subunit, different family members exist that compete for incorporation. Our most intriguing result is that we showed that the composition of the Polycomb Repressive Complex 1 balances HSC self-renewal and differentiation (Klauke et al., Nat. Cell Biol 2013).

Tell us a little about the subject of your presentation.

One of the most important matters in understanding leukemic progression is to determine the nature and number of different leukemic stem cells (LSCs) and their clonal offspring within an individual cancer. Previously, we have shown that the Polycomb PRC1 member Cbx7 causes a spectrum of distinct leukemic types (immature, lymphoid or erythroid) after overexpression in bone marrow cells (Klauke et al, Nat. Cell Biol., 2013). By implementation of a barcoded retroviral Cbx7 expression vector, we generated a mouse model in which Cbx7 overexpression serves as the initial leukemic ‘hit’ and every pre-LSC is uniquely labelled.

In the presentation, I showed that the clonal organisation of leukemia can be more complex than previously anticipated. For example, we showed that the coexistence of different LSC clones with different properties in one leukemia is not uncommon, and we provided direct evidence of the quiescent nature of LSCs.

What's the biggest challenge you've ever faced in your research?

I am a young researcher and I am only just starting my career. For me, the biggest challenge is, and always will be, to balance my work and personal life. As a PhD student, you have very busy periods, when it is often necessary to work around the clock.

However, doing ‘social’ things with my boyfriend, family and friends also gives me new energy that I can put back into my work. So my work will also benefit when I take some time off. But, when I have important deadlines this can be hard to remember.

What are you working on most intensely right now?

Currently, I’m mostly focusing on finishing my PhD and preparing for the defense. After that, my goal is to get the work that I presented at ISEH published.

In your field, what do you hope we will know in five or 10 years that we don’t know now?

Stem cells can be modified by gene therapy for use in regenerative medicine. However, gene transfer has to be safe. In addition, the use of regenerative medicine relies on a proper understanding of the pathways involved in stem cells. I hope in the next 10 years, regenerative medicine will transition from a research promise to clinical reality.

Who is your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you?

That will be my boss/professor, Gerald de Haan. His door is always open to discuss new plans and results. He maintains an excellent balance between giving freedom to young scientists and giving them guidance on their PhD project. He also gives me a taste of the politics behind science every now and then, which is important when you want to continue your career in science. You need to know where the money is, how to get it, and whom you need to know.

What are your future career plans?

I am not certain, but I like science, helping in the lab, and teaching. It is a good career because you are your own boss in many respects, and usually your work schedule is pretty flexible, although in general you have to work hard.

My next step will be to apply for my own funding and create my own ‘scientific niche.’

What general advice would you give a young person considering a career in science?

Be curious and work together. Scientists become scientists because they are fundamentally curious about how things work. In science, you are not going to be in a laboratory all by yourself with no one to talk to. Take all opportunities to teach, speak, interact, and collaborate. Working together makes better science.

What are the results of a scientific career that makes it worthwhile and exciting?

The thing that I like most is that you can be completely creative. You think of an idea, you propose a hypothesis, you design the experiments and you analyze that data. Sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong. Even when your hypothesis is proven wrong, you have learned a lot.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

I really enjoyed the boat trip at the Vancouver meeting.

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Meet Dr. Battacharyya- Doing something for the people who need you most

Posted By Connections Editor, Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dr. G. S. Bhattacharyya
CA-125, Sector 1,
Salt Lake, Kolkata - 700064

Dr. G. S.Bhattacharyya is a consultant at the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute in Kolkata, India. He is also in charge of the Department of Medical Oncology of the Fortis Hospital, in Anandapur, Kolkata, as well as of the Department of Medical Oncology in the AMRI Hospital of Dhakuria, Kolkata. Dr. Bhattacharyya is a member of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), the Breast International Group (BIG), the IASLC Committee, and the incoming president of the Indian Society for Medical and Pediatric Oncology (ISMPO). He has been a member of ISEH for two years, and values ISEH’s excellent website, which helps him keep up to date on the latest advances in the field of hematology and stem cell research.

Dr. Bhattacharyya began his career in 1984 as an Assistant Clinical Research Officer at the Indian Council of Medical Research in the School of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta. He was also a Principal Scientific Officer involved in setting up the Sickle Cell Research Center at Burla Medical College. This led to a keen interest in Hemoglobinopathy and Hemato-oncology. Dr. Bhattacharyya had a few key mentors; Professor D J Weatherall, Professor Asim Basu, Professor N. N. Sen, and Professor F. M. Goldman all impacted his career path, as he became an expert in the fields of malignant hematology, breast cancer, lung cancer, and innovative drug development.

Dr. Bhattacharyya was kind enough to answer some questions for ISEH.

There are a lot of interesting aspects of this scientific field; what do you find the most exciting?

I am most excited by the field of cytokines and immune-oncology and controlling the side effects of targeted therapy.

What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab/facility?

The most exciting areas being studied are the interaction between coagulation and angiogenesis; beta blockers, sympathomimetics and angiogenesis; and beta blockers and COX-2 inhibitors, using m-TOR inhibitors.

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility?

We are working to develop protocols, generate ideas, and provide monitoring.

Given your experience in the field, could you please elaborate on the changes that you saw in the field during the past 5 years?

Studies into the molecular basis of disease have been able to identify new variants of diseases in leukemia.

Targeted therapies have allowed for the use of drugs for specific diseases and specific sub-types like Rituximab in Lymphoma; JAK inhibitors in Myelofibrosis; and the scenario of myeloma changing with the use of Elotuzumab.

There have been major advances in the control of side effects, e.g. in the control of neutropenia. Better antibiotics have been developed, which are able to control infections, which were once the major killer in hematology.

Another great advance is in the use of extracellular matrix drugs that modulate the matrix to prevent seedlings of cancer cells.

It’s clear that the field is going to continue to evolve at an amazing pace. How do you see it changing over the next five years?

Medicine will become based on the four P’s: predictive, participatory, preventive, personalized. This will lead to an increase in survival with less toxicity, the treatment of most diseases as chronic diseases, and effective and economical medicine.

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?

Cost, availability and accessibility, and bio-repositories.

Does your lab have any big studies or projects planned in the near future?

Yes, we are planning to study the interaction between COX-2 inhibitors and non-selective beta-blockers in multiple myeloma, as well as mTOR inhibitors in acute leukemia.

Why did you decide to pursue your research career in your native country?

I chose to come back to India for a few reasons. One reason is the different ethnic population. Indians and Asians are different from Caucasians genetically, so pharmaco-genomics varies widely and hence therapeutically is not relevant to this sub-group of population.

Another reason is the different socio-economical involvement. As the socio-economic situation in developing countries is not the same as in developed countries, the affordability of drugs and treatment becomes an issue. So cost-effective and comparative efficacy research becomes important. Additionally, there is a need in India to modify current and future technologies to suit different ethnic groups as well as be available to people in a variety of socio-economic situations.

What are the challenges and the rewards of working as a researcher in India?

Challenges include access to funds; the regulatory atmosphere; and a lack of awareness of clinical research among the media, politicians, professional, patients and public.

The biggest reward is having done something for the people who need you most.

How would you describe the funding climate in your country for biomedical research in general and for your specific type of research in particular?

Funds are limited and the geographical and socio-economical diversity of India are handicaps to multi-centric research.

What advice do you have for new investigators that are considering a return to your country to conduct research in general and in your field of expertise?

Be focused. Choose relevant problems. Keep in mind comparative efficacy research (CER). Believe in the principals of pharmaco-economics.

What advice do you have (if any) for your government to recruit high level researchers?

Develop 3 tier research systems at the Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary levels.

Choose researchers appropriate for the positions available, and gear up the administration and think tanks needed to develop and evaluate talent.

If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

I would meet Dr. M. Wintrobe, because he was a great teacher, great researcher, a man with integrity and insight, and he was almost the father of Hematology.

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"He who dares, wins"

Posted By Connections Editor, Sunday, June 30, 2013
Updated: Friday, June 28, 2013

Achilles Anagnostopoulos, MD
Director and Head, Hematology Department
BMT Unit, Gene and Cell Therapy Centre,
Public Cord Blood Bank
George Papanicolaou Hospital,
57010 Thessaloniki, Greece

Dr. Achilles Anagnostopoulos is the Director and Head of the Hematology Department and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Unit at the G. Papanicolaou Hospital (GPH/HD-HCT), a tertiary referral center - the largest of its kind in Greece - with a capacity of 48 beds and a large outpatient clinic. It has a staff of 22 specialized hematologists, 16 residents in Hematology, 12 biologists, 15 laboratory technicians and 48 trained nurses.

The fields of hematology and stem cell research have always fascinated Dr. Anagnostopoulos. He has had a long-standing collaboration with Professors Thalia Papayannopoulou and George Stamatoyannopoulos who introduced him to ISEH. ISEH’s openness to new ideas originally attracted Dr. Anagnostopoulos to the organization, and he enjoys attending the ISEH annual meeting in order to follow the latest developments in stem cell research, meet international collaborators, and organize future actions.

Dr. Anagnostopoulos is excited by advances being made in his facility for gene and cell therapy of inherited and acquired diseases, particularly in gene therapy of thalassemia and GvHD.

Dr. Anagnostopoulos was kind enough to answer some questions for ISEH.

Who was your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you?

I have had the privilege of working under Professor John Goldman, who guided me in allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation and also gave me the opportunity to receive training in molecular biology. Further on, I started a close and very productive collaboration with Professor Stamatoyannopoulos whose mentoring was instrumental in my career decisions.

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility?

Our facility has always encouraged new investigators through active PhD and post-doc programs. In fact, in the last 12 years, my close collaborators and I personally have supervised the research activities of 15 PhD students. In addition, our department provides specialty training for 16 residents in hematology, several of whom follow a career in laboratory science as well.

Given your experience in the field, how have you seen the field change in the last five years?

We have come to have a stronger appreciation of the need for biologically-oriented treatment towards the aim of personalized medicine; to better define objectives; and, to understand limitations of existing approaches both in the clinic and the lab.

It’s clear that the field is going to continue to evolve at an amazing pace. How do you see it changing over the next five years?

Basic research will increasingly be linked to and interweaved with clinical practice, posing new challenges, as it will be difficult to decide what is clinically relevant and worth adopting into routine practice.

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?

Currently, the biggest challenge is the enormous cost of novel treatments creating a relevant problem of exclusion and disparities.

Does your lab have any big studies or projects planned in the near future?

Yes, we will be holding a clinical trial of gene therapy for thalassemia.

Why did you decide to pursue your research career in your native country?

I am deeply committed to helping Greece as best as I can in both research and health administration.

What are the challenges and the rewards of working as a researcher in Greece?

Living in a country spending too little on research, it is evidently very difficult and frequently frustrating to follow a career in science. Nonetheless, he who dares wins.

How would you describe the funding climate in your country for biomedical research in general and for your specific type of research in particular?

National funding is limited, especially in this time of financial crisis.

What advice do you have for new investigators that are considering returning to your country to conduct research in general and in your field of expertise?

They have to be prepared to be patient, inventive and willing to pursue collaborations.

What advice do you have for your government to recruit high level researchers?

They should focus on the needs, well-defined positions, and motivation.

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Meet Dr. David Traver, Associate Editor of Experimental Hematology

Posted By Connections Editor, Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2013

David Traver, Ph.D.
Professor
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Section of Cell and Developmental Biology
University of California, San Diego, CA USA

Dr. David Traver is a professor and researcher in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. He has been in the field of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell biology for 19 years, and an ISEH member for more than a decade. Dr. Traver’s lab is interested in the formation and function of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), and how their progeny provide immunity in the young animal. While most of his lab’s studies are conducted in zebrafish, they have recently reinitiated studies in the mouse embryo and in human ES cells.

Dr. Traver finds immense value in the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting. "The meetings are wonderful,” he says. "They are large enough to bring in great science, but small enough to feel like family. Many great collaborations have been started at these meetings, which are always in wonderful locations around the globe.” Dr. Traver notes that he also appreciates "the outstanding science, and ability to reconnect with colleagues in the many excellent social programs.”

Dr. Traver took the time to participate in a Q&A with Connections. Below he discusses how he found his way into the field of hematology and stem cell research, his philosophy for mentoring investigators in his lab, exciting developments both in his lab and his field, as well as the challenges he faces.

How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells scientific field?

DT: After entering the Immunology Ph.D. Program at Stanford, I joined the laboratory of Irv Weissman, where I became interested in leukemia. I created several mouse models of myeloid leukemia, which made me become interested in the maturation stages where hematopoietic stem or progenitor cells could become transformed. This interest led me to seek out the normal branchpoints of the hematopoietic hierarchy. Following the identification of the common lymphoid progenitor by Motonari Kondo and Koichi Akashi in the lab, Koichi and I identified the major branchpoints of the myeloid hierarchy. These new tools allowed us to query the stages at which leukemogenesis initiates and to address controversies in lineage affiliations, such as the derivation of different dendritic cell subsets from lymphoid and myeloid origins.

Who was your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you?

DT: I have been fortunate to have two outstanding mentors, Irv Weissman and Len Zon. Irv can assess the key issues in any scientific problem and is perhaps the most perseverant person I have known. Len has incredible enthusiasm for science and is amazingly supportive of everyone in his group. I hope that I have picked up some of these traits from them.

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab?

DT: I have always admired Arnold Beckman’s adage, "Hire the best people, and then get out of their way.” I try to do this to some extent, but also realize that most young investigators need some coaching on career development, grantsmanship, and presenting their work. Everyone in my group is encouraged to write numerous fellowship applications, since good grantsmanship is the name of the game in academic science. I also meet with everyone annually for a forward thinking career meeting.

Why did you become an Associate Editor for Experimental Hematology?
D.T. I thought the experience would be good for me, and I wanted to do what I could for the society in increasing the impact of the journal. Keith Humphries, the Editor-in-Chief, has put together a great international team and has a good vision of how to make the journal more visible.

There are a lot of interesting aspects of this scientific field; what do you find the most exciting?

DT: Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the stem cell field is how close we are to connecting basic research to powerful clinical applications. This will result in vastly improved cellular therapies over the coming years for a variety of diseases.

What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab?

DT: I am currently excited by several projects in the lab. We are working to integrate the roles of many different signaling pathways into both a genetic model and spatiotemporal model of how HSCs are specified in the vertebrate embryo. These findings should help move the field forward in the instruction of pluripotent precursors to HSCs in vitro, something that has eluded us for decades.

In addition, we should soon have the means to combine our direct imaging of HSC emergence with single-cell transgene activation. This will enable a level of precision in clonal fate mapping and leukemogenesis approaches not previously possible.

Given your experience in the field, how have you seen the field change in the last five years?

DT: Some of the most exciting developments are the marked improvements in whole genome approaches, sophisticated genetic approaches able to query gene function in specific lineages, and the dramatic improvement in live imaging techniques. These are all good examples of new technologies able to drive new scientific breakthroughs.

It’s clear that the field is going to continue to evolve at an amazing pace. How do you see it changing over the next five years?

DT: I think that two of the biggest hurdles in the field of HSC biology will be cleared over the next 5-10 years; the instruction of HSC fate from human pluripotent precursors, and ex vivo expansion of human HSCs for transplantation approaches.

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?

DT: The biggest challenge for our field is the same as for other fields in biological research – keeping good laboratories funded. We need to convince our political leaders to restore the long-term vision in education and research that made this country great.

Does your lab have any big studies or projects planned in the near future?

DT: We are working with Thierry Jaffredo, Charles Durand, Pierre Charbord and Karl Willert to compare and contrast the molecules necessary to specify and support HSCs across evolution. Using the zebrafish, chick, and mouse embryo, we are working to determine the conserved core gene regulatory networks required for HSC emergence and subsequent maintenance. I am very excited about these collaborative studies.

How would you describe the funding climate for your specific type of research?

DT: The funding climate is difficult but possible – many agencies are interested in regenerative medicine. We are fortunate to have CIRM here in California.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

Presenting my first talk as a graduate student.

What are your...?

Hobbies: Music, hiking, backpacking, cocktails, hanging with my children.

Favorite book(s): The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, the Complete Poems of Stephen Crane.

Favorite movie(s): Lawrence of Arabia, Brazil, Stalker, Down by Law, The English Patient, Wings of Desire, I am Cuba, and The Wire series.

If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

That’s a tough question; there are so many interesting people. Louis Armstrong comes to mind because he was arguably the most important man music has ever known. I’d love to take him to dinner, or better yet, have him take me to his favorite spot.

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Toshio Kitamura: a pioneer of retrovirus-mediated expression cloning

Posted By Connections Editor, Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Toshio Kitamura, M.D., Ph.D.
Division of Cellular Therapy and Division of Stem Cell Signaling
The Institute of Medical Science
The University of Tokyo

Dr. Kitamura’s interest in hematology and stem cell research began early in his career. "When I was working as a physician in the university hospital, I was very interested in observing the blood smears of patients with hematological malignancies,” Dr. Kitamura explains. "I wanted to understand the reasons behind the morphological changes of blood cells.” This curiosity motivated Dr. Kitamura to join the department of hematology-oncology at the hospital in 1983 as a clinical hematologist.

After six years of clinical and research training at the University of Tokyo and the Cancer Center Institute, Dr. Kitamura moved to the US to work at DNAX Research Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology as a postdoctoral fellow. It was here that he met a key mentor, his supervisor Dr. Atsushi Miyajima. "He allowed me to do the experiment based on my hypothesis,” says Dr. Kitamura of his supervisor. "He also gave me an important suggestion for establishing an expression cloning system based on retrovirus-mediated gene transfer, because he knew how interested I was in retrovirology. Through his work as a postdoctoral fellow at DNAX, Dr. Kitamura presented the first evidence for the common subunit shared between multiple cytokine receptors.

Four years later Dr. Kitamura started his own laboratory at DNAX Research Institute. He wanted to present his research findings at ISEH and become a member of the society. His lab now has thirteen graduate students, two postdoctoral fellows, three assistant professors, and a technician. Dr. Kitamura emphasizes the importance of understanding and valuing each student and fellow’s unique strengths. "I always try to encourage students and postdoctoral fellows to continue to think about science. I also make recommendations on how the students and fellows should proceed in their careers based on their individual aptitudes.” He often recommends that his students and fellows go abroad for their research. Dr. Kitamura also offers these wise words for new investigators entering the field: "Thinking is the most important and valuable part of being a scientist. If you love to think and speculate, you will have a better chance of becoming a great scientist.” He also explains that because researchers can now isolate hemopoietic cells as well as patients’ leukemic cells with high purities, research in hematology often leads other fields.

Dr. Kitamura’s current research focuses on genetic and epigenetic control of leukemogenesis, in particular the roles of mutations in epigenetic regulators including EZH2, TET2, and ASXL1. His research has made some exciting discoveries. "Mutations in EZH2, TET2 or ASXL1 alone induce MDS-like symptoms in mouse models. We identified one of the underlying molecular mechanisms of ASXL1 mutation-induced MDS,” Dr. Kitamura explains. In addition, Dr. Kitamura contributes to the field by offering a cytokine-dependent TF-1 cell line which he established from one of his patient in 1987, as well as a retrovirus vector pMX and a packaging cell line PLAT-E. These tools are now widely used by the scientific community.

Dr. Kitamura has also borne witness to the rapidly evolving nature of hematological research. He notes that comprehensive analyses are increasingly common, including whole genome sequencing; whole genome methylome; expression profiles, and ChIP-seq. Computers are now necessary to analyze the huge amount of data derived from these comprehensive studies. Additionally, he identifies the greatest challenge now facing the hematology and stem cells field: discovering a method to eliminate leukemic stem cells. "I do not know how it can be managed,” Dr. Kitamura states. "It’s possible that this goal will be reached with a chance factor.”

Dr. Kitamura comments that while he has been able to secure funding for his research thus far, there is an increasing tendency toward funding translational research rather than basic science, particularly since the development of iPS cells in Japan.

Dr. Kitamura has been a member of ISEH for over 20 years. In addition to holding the post of the Associate Editor for Experimental Hematology, he has also been a member of the Board of Directors, as well as a part of a number of ISEH committees. He enjoys being part of a close community with good basic and clinical science. He believes that ISEH offers many opportunities to young researchers. He is always happy to attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting to see his many friends within the ISEH community. His favorite ISEH memory is of driving the Monte Carlo F1 racecourse at an Annual Scientific Meeting.

Dr. Kitamura enjoys listening to Pink Floyd music, reading Haruki Murakami novels, and playing golf. He also plays the drums in a rock band called Negative Selection, which consists of five researchers in hematology and immunology.

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Meet Elaine Dzierzak, Ph.D., ISEH president-elect and 2012 Scientific Program Committee chair.

Posted By ISEH Headquarters, Saturday, January 21, 2012

ISEH President-Elect Values Society Collaboration

Elaine Dzierzak, Ph.D.
Erasmus Medical Center
Erasmus Stem Cell Institute
Rotterdam, Netherlands


ISEH President-Elect Elaine Dzierzak, Ph.D., is professor of developmental biology in the department of Cell Biology at Erasmus University  and director of the Erasmus Medical Center Stem Cell Institute. As noted in the Annual Scientific Meeting article above, she is also chair of the 2012 Scientific Program Committee tasked with delivering this important meeting.

Not a problem for a woman whose career track has taken her to several countries and numerous prestigious institutions working within various disciplines.

"I initially started my research career as an immunologist,” Dzierzak explains. "My Ph.D. work at Yale University (New Haven, CT, USA) was on immunoglobulin specificity and idiotypes. These studies introduced me to mouse genetics. From there, I went on to do research on retroviral mediated gene delivery at the Whitehead Institute (Cambridge, MA, USA). By using in vivo mouse models of hematopoiesis, I found that the difficulty in most therapeutic approaches to hematopoietic disease is in the manipulation and expansion of hematopoietic stem cells. This gave me the idea of looking towards developmental processes to establish how hematopoietic stem cells are made in the embryo.”

Dzierzak was the first to demonstrate the expression of a retrovially transduced therapeutic gene in hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) after bone marrow stem cell transplantation. After moving to the National Institute for Medical Research (London), she changed the long-held textbook dogma of the yolk sac origins of the adult hematopoietic system, showing that adult-type HSCs are generated from the embryonic aorta.

"Since we have demonstrated that hematopoietic stem cells are generated from hemogenic endothelium, our current studies focus on identifying the sequential expression of a number of pivotal transcription factors in the hemogenic endothelium and the downstream targets that are involved in the endothelial to hematopoietic transition,” she continues. "We will do this through our advanced embryo imaging methods and new mouse marker/mutant models.”

The ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting is among the important stimuli to her scientific work. It is also the place where she gets some ideas on meeting the challenges of her professional life – how to balance one’s personal and professional life and how to address the funding challenges due to the global economic crisis.

"For me the annual ISEH meeting is an extremely important conference,” she says. "I see many of my closest collaborators and colleagues, and I meet many young researchers. It is an energizing meeting that stimulates new ideas and an urgency to get back to the lab to start new experiments. I particularly enjoy the poster sessions, scientific and social interactions and the banquet, where I can dance with the students, postdocs and former ISEH presidents, especially dancing with whoever comes out on the dance floor like Thalia (Papayannopoulou) and Toshio (Suda).”

Music is important to Dzierzak.

"When not involved in science, I enjoy listening to music and going to concerts with my family and friends; we are big Bob Dylan fans,” she offers. "I also love to cook, especially with fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits when we are in the South of France for our holidays.”

Look for Elaine Dzierzak on the dance floor in Amsterdam. Or, connect with her now through the ISEH member database. Click here to learn more about her or to build your personal profile. You can also learn more about the Erasmus Medical Center Stem Cell Institute.

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8/23/2018 » 8/26/2018
ISEH 47th Annual Meeting - Los Angeles, CA

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