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Meet ISEH Member Michael Milyavsky

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, August 17, 2018

 

Michael Milyavsky joined the hematology and stem cells field in 2006, and he has been an ISEH member for the last 5 years. His areas of expertise include hematopoietic stem cells, DNA damage response and regulation of normal and leukemic stem cells after genotoxic injury. Michael earned his PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology in 2005 and has been a Principal Investigator at Tel Aviv University, Israel since 2012. In May 2017, Michael gained tenure at the Department of Pathology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

 

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

Since the beginning of my scientific career, I have focused on revealing mechanisms responsible for cancer initiation and progression. My initial research was conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science under the supervision of Prof. Varda Rotter where I established and characterized an in-vitro model of stepwise malignant transformation in human cells. To deepen my understanding of stem cell biology and leukemogenesis I joined Dr. John E. Dick at the Ontario Cancer Institute, and together we provided definitive insights into the DNA damage response of highly purified human Hematopoietic Stem Cells.

 

Driven by the urgent need to better understand mechanisms responsible for human leukemia relapse after therapy, I focus my current research on the leukemia stem cells including novel strategies for their isolation, characterization and targeting. Additional line of research in my lab focuses on normal stem cells and their crosstalk with bone marrow cells in the context of injury.

 

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?

I was introduced to the ISEH in 2013 and after learning that the meeting will take place in a lovely city of Vienna, Austria, I decided to take a chance and submitted an abstract. Luckily, the abstract was selected for the oral presentation at the meeting. Since then I try to attend every ISEH conference. I feel that this venue provides me with a comprehensive overview of the latest development in our field and equally important provides excellent opportunity for networking and scientific discussions.  

 

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

I want to provide my students with the freedom to formulate their own research hypotheses, and to design the most informative experiments that can prove or disprove them. I try to create the most nurturing atmosphere in our laboratory by working individually with every student and giving her/him their very own project that they can master.  I also make effort to be there in case they need my assistance and support. I am still mastering my mentoring style, and learn much from my students. Although this approach does not work perfectly for everybody, I believe it allows the best realization of the students’ potential to become a scientist.

 

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

I find that understanding of the ways hematopoietic stem cells made their fate related decisions (e.g. self-renewal vs. differentiation, quiescence vs cycling) is very interesting. Currently, single cell tissue culture assays combined with powerful single cell genomics can provide answer to these questions. I think that the collective efforts to sequence blood cancer genomes and decode their chromatin will provide the hematology community with novel regulators of both normal and malignant hematopoiesis.  Deciphering their function in stem cell biology will be very exciting.

 

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

I am very keen to find molecules that can protect human HSCs from DNA-damage induced injury. To find those we try to reveal stem cell autonomous and environment produced signals that impinge on their function after the stress. Although the progress is slow we already discovered one mechanism that helps HSCs to withstand radiation-induced apoptosis. However, to our surprise this protection lasted for several days and then vanished away. So it seems that HSCs somehow remember that they were damaged. It will be gratifying to understand the mechanism of this “childhood trauma memory”, and to find ways to mitigate it.   

 

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?

ISEH keeps me updated on the most advanced studies and exciting discoveries made in the field.

 

What are your hobbies?

Reading, cooking with friends, sightseeing

 

What is your favorite book?

Professional: “Microbe Hunters” by Paul de Kruif, but personal is “Peace and War” by Leo Tolstoy.

 

What is your favorite movie?

“All About My Mother” by Pedro Almodóvar.

 

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

Leonardo da Vinci is definitely someone whose work as an artist and a scientist fascinate me a lot. I really admire the level of his curiosity and imagination. It would be lovely to entertain one another by discussing the latest scientific discoveries and watching Leonardo’s reaction. If I would be given a chance to do that, you will learn about it on this website.

 

 

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Meet Publications Committee Member Roi Gazit

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, June 1, 2018

Roi Gazit, a member of the ISEH Publications committee, has been in the hematology and stem cells scientific field for 11 years, and an ISEH member recently. His areas of expertise include immunology, hematopoietic stem cells, gene expression, and developmental biology. Roi earned his PhD in Immunology in 2008 and opened his lab at the Ben-Gurion University on 2013. His lab is part of the Shraga Segal department of Microbiology Immunology and Genetics; he is also a member of the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev. His group is located at Be'er-Sheva, Israel.

 

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

My academic interest during undergrad and Master studies were is developmental biology, but then I realized that the immune system is of greater interest as it continuously developing throughout life. During PhD my focus was on Natural Killer (NK) cells, which have the fascinating ability to identify hazardous cells within our own body, and protect us from viral-infected and cancerous cells. Moving on for PostDoc I found the new laboratory of Derrick J. Rossi most interesting, personally and scientifically. Studying Hematopoietic Stem Cells let you work with the best of immunology, developmental biology, and Adult Stem Cells. Doing it with brilliant people is a continuous challenge and pleasure.

 

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?

I have heard about the ISEH long ago, and followed publications for a while, but it was truly recently that I got introduced by two good friends: Michael Milsom and Michael Milyavsky. Both got me to join the last ISEH meeting seriously, not just as a visitor, and it was totally worth for it.

 

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

Mentoring is an ongoing challenge. I think that as a PI this is my most important role, and I try to learn and improve. First, I got outstanding examples from my PhD and PostDoc mentors. Second, I truly believe that having scientific enthusiasm is the single most important ingredient for it. Third, I am fortunate to have special students that are teaching me how to do mentoring better. Fourth, letting new investigators to do things on their own way – and discovering own potency – is something I believe will pay on the long-term.

 

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

We are fortunate to live in a most exciting scientific era, when so many aspects progress so fast! I find great interest in reprogramming, as it is revealing multiple routes and mechanisms that can allow unprecedented regenerative treatments. Reprogramming towards HSCs is currently taking three major routes: as direct-differentiation from pluripotent cells, trans-differentiation from endothelial or other cell types, and direct-reprogramming from blood cells. Each route is bringing exciting finding- and together there is realistic hope to help patients in need.

 

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

Splicing in HSCs is pretty exciting for us – we were able to map the whole transcriptome splicing recently and working on single-cell resolution currently. The expression of genes determine cellular function and identity. Most of our genes consist of multiple exons, and may express more than one transcript; however, until recently transcriptome analysis was largely limited to the coarse level of calling just one transcript per gene. Mapping whole-transcriptome splicing revealed already novel transcripts, and offer an accessible resource for everyone to find better information on your gene of interest in HSCs. We are zooming in for single-cell resolution of splicing in mouse and in human, keeping in mind that aberrant splicing was found to associate with MDS and Leukemia.

 

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?

ISEH is most valuable for it members, including many of the leaders of the field, and many more that are surely to become leaders. It brings scientist who love experimental hematology together.

 

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?

For several good reasons: first, scientifically it is probably the best annual meeting in the field- with good focus and many of the best scientist in the world. Second, it is not too-big so you have the chance to get into most lectures and to gain personal connections that are hard to obtain on larger occasions. Third, it is having an outstanding open scientific spirit- people do share ideas with friends openly which is notable nowadays.

 

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

My best memory was in 2017 in Frankfurt, the meeting was running the whole day long from early morning till evening. Nevertheless, most participants just continued informally going to one pub and moving on to another till very late night – and all that time talking on most recent scientific issues. ISEH somehow brought together a group of people so deeply interested in hematopoiesis that no one could have stopped it.

 

What are your hobbies?

Books, hiking, cooking and Coffee

 

What are 2 of your your favorite books?

“Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, and "The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov

 

What is your favorite movies?

Pulp Fiction

 

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

Sabine R. Florence, for she was a true pioneer scientifically and personally. Some of her studies were so ahead of time that they are still not solved (including tuberculosis, and the angioblast-hematopoietic transition).

 

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Meet Publications Committee Member Christophe Lancrin

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, March 16, 2018

Christophe Lancrin, a member of the ISEH Publications committee, has been in the hematology and stem cells scientific field for 20 years, and an ISEH member for seven. His areas of expertise include embryonic stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells, and gene expression regulation. Christophe earned his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (specialty Immunology) in 2003 and has been an EMBL Group Leader since 2011. His lab is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), which is an intergovernmental organization specializing in basic research in the life sciences funded by more than 20 member states. His group is located at EMBL Rome, a unit focused on Epigenetics and Neuroscience.

 

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

During my PhD, I worked under the guidance of Dr Sophie Ezine (Paris, France), a former post-doc of Irving Weissman. During that time, I became fascinated by the process of cell fate commitment that must occur for HSCs to become mature blood cells. Following my PhD, I pursued my interest in cell fate commitment in hematopoiesis by doing my post-doctoral research in the group of Dr Georges Lacaud (Manchester, UK) where I worked on embryonic hematopoiesis. There, I studied the transcriptional regulation of the endothelial to hematopoietic transition, the process by which hematopoietic stem cells emerge during embryonic development.

 

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?

I was introduced to the ISEH during my post-doctoral research. I was told that it was a very nice and supportive organization. Moreover, I heard praise about the conferences it organizes. They are always great opportunities to network and learn about the latest research on hematology.

 

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

I think that it is very important to encourage people in my lab to give their opinion about their project and share their ideas with me. I encourage them to express their opinion in a logical way and to be able to support it with sound arguments. Moreover, I tell them to not be afraid of their ignorance because that’s what we don’t know which motivates us to ask questions and make progress in our research.

 

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

One of the most exciting aspects of the field at the moment is for me is about how HSCs develop into mature blood cells. Most of our knowledge on their functional capacities (multipotency and self-renewal capacity) comes from transplantation in irradiated mice. However, new technologies such as single cell RNA sequencing, in vivo lineage tracing or the use of non-irradiated hosts start to depict a much more complex picture of the process of differentiation of HSCs into mature blood cells than we previously thought. It clearly shows that there are many exciting discoveries yet to come about the HSCs differentiation process.

 

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

One of our most exciting studies concerns the transcriptional control of the endothelial to hematopoietic transition. For this transition to be successful, it is crucial to switch off the endothelial cell fate and switch on the blood program and generate blood stem cells. Using single cell RNA sequencing and gene regulatory network analysis, we have been able to reveal how the activity of key transcription factors needs to be regulated for the transition to be successful. Currently, we are further dissecting the function of these transcription factors to better understand blood stem cell production during embryonic development.

 

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?

ISEH is a great organization for networking and learn about the latest findings in hematology.

 

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?

I attend the ISEH meeting to able to meet people of my field and find out of their most exciting discoveries.

 

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

My best memory was in 2017 in Frankfurt when by chance I found myself sitting next to Irving Weissman during dinner. His research has been extremely influential to me and it was great to have the opportunity to talk to him for the first time. It was incredible to see such enthusiasm for science in someone who has already achieved so much in his career. It was truly inspiring!

 

What are your hobbies?

Reading, hiking, cinema.

 

What is your favorite book?

“Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond.

 

What is your favorite movie?

“Blade Runner” by Ridley Scott.

 

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

I would have liked to meet Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, because of the great work he was doing as a science popularizer. This is an example that scientists should try to follow to make sure that the largest number of people can understand what we do and the impact our research can have on our society.

 

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Meet New Investigators Committee Member Isabel Beerman

Posted By connections editor, Friday, August 25, 2017

Isabel Beerman is a principle investigator at the National Institute on Aging – part of the U.S Department of Health & Human Services. Her work is focused on understanding the mechanisms driving age-associated loss of potential in aged stem cells. Isabel has degrees from both Harvard and Yale University and completed her post-doc under Dr. Derrick Rossi at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her areas of expertise are Hematopoietic Stem Cells, Aging, and Epigenetics.

Dr. Beerman currently serves as an active member of the New Investigators Committee and played an integral role in the planning of the Meet the Expert Mixer and the New Investigators Technology Workshop at the 46th Annual Scientific Meeting. She has been a member of ISEH for four years.

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

Although my PhD training was in Genetics, I heard a captivating talk about aging stem cells by a faculty candidate, Dr. Derrick Rossi, and was motivated to venture into HSC research. This was almost a return “home” scientifically for me, as I was introduced to hematopoietic stem cell biology while doing a high-school summer internship at the McLaughlin Research Institute.

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?

Studying HSC biology, I was introduced to ISEH initially through reading hematology publications in Experimental Hematology. The first annual meeting I attended was in Montreal, Canada.

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

As a junior PI, I am still able to spend significant time in the wet-lab space with my trainees. There is day to day mentoring, discussions on experimental design, troubleshooting, and thinking through future directions. Since the NIH is not an academic institute, we maintain connections with local universities where my group is invited to attend meetings and journal clubs. I support my trainees’ participation in international societies and encourage them to seek additional mentors (hopefully some within the ISEH community).

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?

The outreach by ISEH to its members, through the Connections Newsletter, the ISEH Blog, and social media postings provides relevant vignettes promoting hematology research and discussing career and life decisions. ISEH’s publications present findings pertinent to developing a strong hematopoietic research program. Additionally, interactions with the international leaders in the hematology field is of immeasurable value.

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?

The Annual ISEH meeting is a forum for cutting-edge hematology research to be presented. It is an opportunity to meet with colleagues with similar interests to develop novel research ideas, new collaborations can be formed, and active discussions with both junior and senior members of the community occur. The meeting also places significant emphasis on mentoring new investigators. This has recently borne out by the addition of the “pre-meeting” for junior investigators providing a mechanism for trainees to get advice and feedback about their projects, presentations, and career goals from senior members of the society. This generates an environment which fosters networking with potential career-long colleagues. I am glad to be a part of an international society that recognizes the excellence of its outstanding senior members, but also promotes and supports its new investigators.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

At last year’s meeting, Dr. Hans Seiburg presented the New Investigator Award in honor of Dr. Christa Muller-Sieburg. While I did not have the opportunity to meet Dr. Muller-Sieburg, my first project in the HSC field involved characterizing the heterogeneity of the stem cell compartment- an avenue of research pioneered by Dr. Muller-Sieburg. I was fortunate to receive this award in 2015, and my outstanding colleague and friend Nina Cabezas-Wallscheid was last year’s award winner. We both had the chance to talk with Dr. Seiburg after the award ceremony and hear about Dr. Muller-Sieburg passion for science and life. Sharing his love and respect for Christa was very touching and made receiving the award more meaningful. I hope my research will reflect her passion and drive for moving the field forward.

 

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Meet Publications Committee Member Evgenia Verovskaya

Posted By Connections Editor, Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Evgenia Verovskaya is currently a 3rd year postdoc in the laboratory of Prof. Emmanuelle Passegue at Columbia University Medical Center. She specializes in hematopoietic stem cell aging, clonal analysis, and bone marrow microenvironment and has been in the hematology field for 10 years. Evgenia earned her PhD in Medical Science from the University of Groningen and currently serves on the ISEH publications committee.

How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells scientific field?
I have started my MSc program at University of Groningen at 2006, the year of publication of groundbreaking work of Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. As many other people at that time, I was extremely excited about the promise of stem cells. I had previously joined the lab of Prof. Gerald de Haan who was working on hematopoietic stem cells an internship. Following the internship, I joined his laboratory for my PhD studies.

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?
I was introduced to ISEH in the year of my PhD program – the majority of more senior postdocs and PhD students in the lab were ISEH members, and I heard a lot of great things about the society and the meetings. I then attended the Annual Meeting in Melbourne, Australia in 2010. I still keep in touch with several people during that meeting – ISEH really helped me to establish a lot of connections within the field.

Who was your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you?
During my PhD and postdoc work, I was very lucky to work with three people who shaped me as a scientist – my PhD mentor, Prof. Gerald de Haan, my co-mentor, a senior scientist in the lab, Dr. Leonid Bystrykh, and my current postdoctoral supervisor – Prof. Emmanuelle Passegue. All of them are extremely critical researchers, and they taught me to be critical about my science. At the same time, their strengths are very different: Gerald is contagiously enthusiastic and optimistic about science, Leonid is very unafraid to try new approaches, while Emmanuelle is extremely thorough in shaping the whole picture. Having these great examples was invaluable for me.

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility?
During my PhD and postdoc periods, I supervised several master and bachelor internships. I love mentoring students, and find it extremely rewarding. For me, a big part of mentoring is letting a student have his/her independent research question, and have “ownership” of a project, even if it is very small. This way, when they make an exciting discovery, they know that it is their contribution to science. Sharing the excitement about new results, technique or publication is another key part of mentoring for me – research is hard work, and usually underpaid, so I think having fun and enjoying gaining new knowledge is essential.


There are a lot of interesting aspects of this scientific field; what do you find the most exciting?
As a trained pharmacist, I love the fact that stem cell research can in the future be applied in treating human diseases. My favorite example of “stem cells in action” is treatments of chemical eye burns with corneal stem cells (Holoclar) that allow the patients to regain their vision – how exciting is that? In the blood field, recent studies showed a lot of progress towards generating hematopoietic stem cells in vitro, and hopefully this will move towards a clinical trial in the foreseeable future.

What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab/facility?
I am studying hematopoietic aging, so my answer will be very biased! Our lab has recently made a number of exciting discoveries of the mechanisms of HSC aging, including uncovering the roles of replication stress and autophagy in aging-related hematopoietic decline. Given the fact that we all age, the progress in this field has very broad implications.

Given your experience in the field, how have you seen the field change in the last five years?
In my opinion, the field has undergone a major change with the development of imaging and transgenic technologies that really accelerated progress in understanding of HSC regulation. Some of the key discoveries that these technologies enabled include understanding of HSC niches, tracking hematopoiesis in native non-transplant conditions, and updated understanding of hematopoietic tree. Moreover, better understanding of developmental hematopoiesis and molecular wiring of HSCs propelled the studies aimed at in vitro HSC generation.

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?
I think one of the biggest challenges of the stem cell field at the moment is the negative connotation associated with the terms “stem cells” in the public view. I think we as scientists, need to do more to build bridges with the general public and to make the discoveries more easily understandable. We are working in an amazing field that delivers ground-breaking findings on a monthly basis, and it is important that this knowledge is shared with non-researchers.

How would you describe the funding climate for your specific type of research?
My project lays at the intersection of the hematopoietic field and aging. Unlike some other areas of hematopoietic research, such as blood cancers, there are not much specialized funding available for aging studies. As we now understand that many mechanisms driving blood aging and blood disease are shared, I hope that the climate changes in the new future.

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

As I am still a very junior investigator myself, this is a difficult question to answer. For people just entering the field, I would advise to have patience (there is no way around that four-month post-transplantation time point!) and to stay excited. We are working in the age of great discoveries that are worth waiting for.

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?
I find ISEH a unique platform for networking, and I think that the Annual Meetings provide a fantastic opportunity to communicate with the peers and to easily access leaders of the field. The members of society are very enthusiastic, and meeting people several times through the years, you create strong scientific and personal bonds. For a young scientist, it is also amazing as a means to get a name recognition – there are a lot of short talks from junior researchers, and you get a lot of feedback,

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?
The structure of the meetings really facilitates participation from young investigators and provides ample networking opportunities. For instance, you can take part in “scientific speed dating” session and talk with Sean Morrison and Ben Ebert, one-on-one during the same night – which other meeting can boast such an event?

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?
That is a difficult question, since there are always so many memorable moments during the meetings! If I have to pick, my favorite memory is a social event at the 2012 Amsterdam meeting, a channel cruise followed by a night with live music. We are all very serious in the lab, and it was great to see lead investigators, postdocs and students dancing and having fun together!

What are your hobbies?
Yoga, reading

What is your favorite book?
Roald Dahl short story collection “Kiss kiss”

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

Catherine the Great, Empress of Russian Empire

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Meet the 2017 Local Organizing Committee Chair, Michael Rieger

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, April 21, 2017
Michael Rieger is a professor in stem cell biology at the Goethe University Frankfurt, Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology. He has been a member of ISEH for 10 years and within the field of experimental hematology for 15 years with a focus on normal hematopoiesis, stem cells, and acute leukemia. Michael is the current chair of the local organizing committee for the 46th ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting in Frankfurt, Germany.

Can you describe your lab or work environment?
My research group is located at the University Hospital Frankfurt, working on normal and malignant hematopoietic stem cell biology and targeted therapies of acute leukemias.

How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells scientific field?
I was trained as a tumor immunologist during my studies and my PhD, before I moved into the hematopoietic stem cell field. As you can see I was always fascinated by blood cell functions, and I was certain to pursue my postdoctoral studies working on blood cells. Timm Schroeder, my former postdoc mentor, drew my interest to hematopoiesis, and he also introduced me to ISEH. Now my focus has shifted towards stem cell functions and fate choices, also in other tissues. The hematopoietic system is a wonderful model system to ask basic and applied questions on adult stem cell behavior.

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility?
Enthusiasm for science is the most important driving force for innovation. I am living the fascination for basic research in the hope to influence and “infect” my young colleagues with this contagious passion. I share my experience in this field, and I try to educate them how to become an accurate, reliable, trustworthy and smart researcher, which are probably the most important qualities for a scientist. The consideration of the medical need in asking timely questions in stem cell and cancer biology helps to focus on the most relevant topics.

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

The enormous regenerative potential of stem cells is fascinating. Generating the required cell types at right quantity and quality during homeostasis, and reacting highly plastic in cases when needed, are exciting features of stem cell-driven tissue organization. The sum of individual cell behavior finally results in the required output at population level. Cellular heterogeneity and behavior at single stem cell level, and the technologies that allow these studies nowadays, are intriguing for me. Understanding these heterogeneities will help to rationally manipulate the system for regenerative medicine and cancer treatment.

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?
One of the long-term goals is the ability to indefinite culture and expand blood stem cells ex vivo, for regenerative medicine. This ability would overcome many logistic and medical hurdles in finding a matching donor for stem cell transplantations, and would foster gene therapy approaches. Many researchers believe that the complexity of the bone marrow environment providing the suitable niche for stem cells may not be recapitulated in vitro. However, I am convinced that we have not yet found the critical signaling pathways at the right dosage and timing that are required for blood stem cell culture, as was achieved for embryonic stem cells many years ago. Understanding the molecular control of stemness will provide the basis for rational approaches to maintain blood stem cells in culture for improved medical purposes.

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?
ISEH is a scientific society with long history and loyal members, and many leaders in the field have belonged to ISEH for decades. The networking opportunities at the annual meeting but also during the whole year are of great value. The work of the New Investigator Committee is fantastic; especially for young scientists starting up in the field and also moving into ISEH. They organize educational sessions at the annual meeting and broadcast webinars providing guidance for professional and social skills. The constant exchange between the New Investigator Committee and the Board of Directors provides young ISEH members a strong influence in decision making.

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?
The ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting is a fixed event in my meeting calendar. The meeting brings together latest breaking science from world-leading experts with an intimate and relaxed atmosphere. These are probably the reasons why so many colleagues always come back year by year. Going to the conference is almost like meeting old friends. The driving force of the success of the meeting is the maintenance of a high scientific standard over decades.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?
I have a lot of good memories to different ISEH meetings. Especially the evenings of the New Investigator Mixer remained in good memories (as far as I remember…)

What are your favorite hobbies? Hobbies? I have small kids…
What is your favorite book? The Lord of the Rings
What is your favorite movie? La Vita è Bella (Life Is Beautiful)
If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why? John Cleese. Is he really that funny?

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Meet ISEH Member Konstantinos Kokkaliaris

Posted By Connections Editor, Thursday, February 23, 2017

Konstantinos Kokkaliaris is a post-doctoral researcher under ISEH president Timm Schroeder within the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich. He has been an active member of ISEH for over four years, serving on the New Investigator’s Committee and now on the Publications Committee. He holds a Master’s degree in Life Sciences from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Stem Cell Research from the Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich.

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

During my diploma studies, I developed a strong interest in the stem-cell field, due to the remarkable potential of tissue-specific adult stem cells to regenerate corresponding tissues/organs under homeostatic conditions. For this reason, I decided to continue my studies at the University of Edinburgh, which houses a core group of world-leading stem-cell labs. This decision changed my scientific life giving me the opportunity to enter this field of research and work on methods producing blood cells ex vivo, by directing differentiation of embryonic stem cells. At the same time, I also had a strong interest in imaging techniques that would enable observation of dynamic processes (such as stem cell differentiation) in real time, while they happen. My interest in blood stem cells and imaging led me to the lab of Dr Timm Schroeder, who had already combined those tools to answer long-standing questions.

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?

My PhD supervisor (Dr Timm Schroeder) is actively involved in ISEH and encourages people from his lab to attend such international meetings early in their careers (especially the ISEH ones). My first ISEH meeting was in Amsterdam in 2012. That was my first “big” meeting and a unique experience for me, since it triggered interactions with scientists having similar interests, but different expertise. I was fascinated by the quality of science and network opportunities, so I quickly decided to be involved and contribute to the society by joining the New Investigators Committee. Since then I am attending almost every year. For me, ISEH meetings are the highlight of each academic year and a great opportunity to stay tuned with the latest advances in the hematology field, while catching up with colleagues and friends from all over the world.

Who was your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did they help you?

This is a difficult question, because I feel that even “small” contributions could have major impact in decision making or choosing certain paths. During my PhD and early post-doc life, I have been extremely privileged to be supervised by Timm Schroeder, who is a great mentor, pays close attention to details and is very supportive with new ideas. He introduced me to the blood field, trusted me with important collaborations, gave me the freedom to play with cutting-edge technologies in his lab and the space to develop novel ones. He has his door always open, despite his busy schedule. Our chats often ended after several hours and have been extremely stimulating and motivating. However, I would not have this opportunity without making my first steps into the stem-cell field under the supervision of Lesley Forrester and her post-doc Melany Jackson. They were very supportive and patient, while giving me the chance to contribute to published stories already as a Master’s student. Also, during the course of my research, I have interacted with several senior investigators (such as Teri Moore, Marella De Bruijn, Ian Chambers and James Palis to name a few), who greatly influenced my view on science and life and gave me the motivation to overcome obstacles and failures.

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

One of the most exciting aspects is the role of the microenvironment (niche) on cell-fate decisions of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). It is currently believed that niche signals regulate the fine balance between HSC self-renewal and differentiation. However, the mechanism through which 2 genetically identical “daughter” cells coming from division of a “mother” HSC could follow distinct fates (either stay stem cells or differentiate) within the bone marrow microenvironment is intriguing. Especially since this decision will be made over and over again throughout our lives. Unfortunately, the exact cellular and molecular composition of the HSC niche remains controversial. Dissecting the HSC microenvironment and identifying the molecular cues governing cell-fate decisions is both exciting and extremely promising for future therapeutic applications.

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?

During the last years, the development of several sophisticated techniques allowed us to profile rare populations with single-cell resolution. Deep-tissue and whole-embryo imaging have also significantly progressed, “placing” such rare cell types in the context of their in vivo microenvironment. However, both methods offer a snapshot, a static view of dead cells, which might (or not) accurately reflect dynamic biological processes, such as stem-cell differentiation. Following single cells and their progeny over weeks in vitro is now feasible. However, non-invasive in vivo imaging allowing equally long observation of living cells with adequate temporal resolution is currently lucking. There is a huge space for improvement of such imaging modalities that would allow observing biological processes where and while they happen. That would significantly improve our understanding of how stem cells behave in vivo.

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

According to many, the holy grail of the hematology research is the identification of (novel) molecules capable of maintaining or ideally expanding HSCs on a culture dish. That would give us the opportunity to obtain sufficient numbers for therapies or have an unlimited source to produce off-the-shelf patient-specific blood cell types of interested. At the moment, several labs are focusing on that direction and promising molecules are already in clinical trials. Such finding would be a major step towards improving the clinical application and therapeutic impact of HSC research.

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

No matter what you decide to do, follow your passion and try to earn your living from your hobby. Doing research is a no-go if you don’t love it (as it is the case for pretty much any job). And don’t allow failure to take you down, discourage you or make you feel unhappy. This should just increase the satisfaction when you achieve your goal. If doing science would have been easy, somebody else would have done/found it already.

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?

First, the size and the family-like atmosphere of the annual scientific meetings. As I mentioned before, the meetings are a great opportunity to interact with other scientists and present your work to world-leading experts in the field. Second, the fact that ISEH is such a vibrant society. Members can stay up to date with the latest scientific discoveries or learn how to overcome common hurdles in the lab, by following or even contributing themselves to social media pages, webinars, blogs, publications in Experimental Hematology and much more.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

There are several actually. I remember the boat cruise in Amsterdam, enjoying an open-air concert during a coffee-break next to the conference hotel in Montreal, the tea ceremony in Kyoto and spending a full day sightseeing with great company after the San Diego meeting (thanks to Isabel, Cedric, Nina and Novella).

What are your hobbies?


Basketball, sailing, traveling, volleyball, water sports

What are your favorite books?


On the soul (Aristotle), Complete work of Epicurus, The Fall (Albert Camus)

What are your favorite movies?


Hannibal, Dark Knight trilogy, Tis kakomoiras (Greek movie)

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


Michael Jordan because he was a symbol of devotion (to his passion), perseverance and commitment to improve his weaknesses and return better and better every season on the courts.

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Meet ISEH Publications Committee Member Teresa Bowman

Posted By Connections Editor, Thursday, December 15, 2016

Teresa Bowman is a current member of the Publications Committee and is a past chair of the New Investigators Committee. She has been a member of ISEH for 8 years and in the hematology field for 16. Dr. Bowman received her PhD from Baylor, completed her postdoc at Boston Children’s Hospital and is currently an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC.

 

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

When I entered graduate school, I was interested in aging and stem cell biology was a natural fit for that pursuit. I joined Peggy Goodell’s lab to study hematopoietic stem cells. I chose to stay in the field for two reasons: great science and great people. Despite being the best understood stem cell system, there are still so many interesting questions to pursue in HSC biology. Also important to me was the community. The hematology community is overflowing with collegial scientists who favor collaborative over cutthroat endeavors.

 

Can you describe your lab or work environment?

We are focused on hematopoietic stem cell biology and RNA processing. The lab is full of diverse set of trainees (PhD students, med students, postdocs, clinical fellows) and collegiality.

 

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?

The first Annual ISEH meeting I attended was the 2008 meeting held in Boston. The meeting instantly became one of my favorites due to the great talks and networking. The experience not only made me committed to attending the meeting (I haven’t missed a meeting since!), but also to get involved in the society.

 

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

I was lucky to have great mentors who taught me not only about science, but also the impact of mentoring. To foster my trainees, we have weekly one-on-one meetings to keep me up-to-date, round table-style lab meetings to keep the whole lab up-to-date on each other’s projects, and joint group meetings with other labs to get different perspectives. We also have yearly meetings to discuss career goals to make sure they are on track to accomplish them.

 

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

Myelodysplastic syndrome is a bone marrow failure syndrome arising from hematopoietic stem cell defects. Mutations in spliceosomal components were recently found to be prevalent in MDS, but why these defects lead to disease is unclear. Our lab is using zebrafish to uncover how mutations in spliceosomal factors contribute to hematologic abnormalities and to discover novel therapeutics that selectively target splicing factor-defective cells.

 

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

The key to the health of any financial portfolio is diversity. Although funding is tight, there are many avenues for financial support of biological science including governmental (both at the state and federal levels) and private foundations. To keep things moving, I leave no stone unturned.   

 

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?

Two things I find most valuable about ISEH is the amazing, international community of scientists and the investment in new investigators. It is great how much the views of new investigators are valued to help shape the future of ISEH.

 

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?

I attend the ISEH Annual Meeting to hear great science and to network. Unlike some larger meetings, it seems that most presenters show unpublished and new work, which keeps the meeting exciting.

 

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

One word: dancing! Dancing is a great equalizer allowing both senior and junior investigators to let down their hair and have a good time.

 

What are your hobbies?

Parenting (haha)

 

What are your favorite books?

Harry Potter series (see answer to question one)

 

What are your favorite movies?

All things ‘80s

 

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

Hillary Clinton. She is a woman who pushed the envelope and never gave up. Regardless of whether you agree with her politically, she is an inspiration to girls everywhere to feel “deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world”. Even in her loss, she motivates us to keep going and dream bigger.   

 

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Meet ISEH Member Peter van Galen

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, October 21, 2016

Meet ISEH member Peter van Galen

Peter Van Galen is currently a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Bradley Bernstein at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute in Boston.

He’s been a member of ISEH since 2012. Peter served on the New Investigators Committee for 4 years and has recently begun his first term on the Publications Committee.

He received his PhD in molecular genetics from the University of Amsterdam under the supervision of Dr. John Dick and Dr. Maarten van Lohuizen.

 

How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells scientific field?
My first exposure to the wet lab was an internship with Dr. Hans Clevers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. During this time, he published the groundbreaking identification of Lgr5 in mouse intestinal stem cells, and seeing this happen was an inspiring introduction to the field of stem cell biology. Dr. Clevers recommended me for a second internship with Dr. John Dick in Toronto, which is where it all started.

And then how were you introduced to ISEH?

My first ISEH meeting was in 2012 in Amsterdam. It was great because there were ex-colleagues to catch up with, and more importantly, so many opportunities to connect with new people. The ISEH makes it easy to meet new people with similar interests, regardless of whether they are trainees or senior leaders in the field.

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

It has been very interesting to be supervised by John Dick during my PhD and Bradley Bernstein during my postdoc. They are both great mentors in different ways. John is an extremely supportive and thoughtful mentor, and he created an environment that made the lab practically feel like family. Brad is involved in all the projects in the lab, gets really excited about original ideas and inspires scientists to undertake and finish transformative projects. It has been very instructive to observe these different styles and think about the aspects that I want to adopt when I run my own lab.

What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab/facility?
I am very excited about applying innovative technologies in smart ways to learn about biology. Our lab is involved in the development of new technologies and bioinformatics, as well as their application to important questions in developmental and cancer biology. For example, there have been major developments in approaches to investigate the function of DNA and histone modifications, chromatin accessibility and topology, and single-cell transcriptomes. If state-of-the-art technologies and computational expertise are used in appropriate models with a good understanding of biology, we can clarify precise epigenetic mechanisms that control normal and malignant tissue hierarchies.

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?
In the past few years, many technologies have really made the transition from technically challenging in cell lines to robust protocols that can be used in primary blood cells (ChIP-seq, ATAC-seq, single-cell RNA-seq, and soon Hi-C and ChIA-PET). Combined with sophisticated computational biology, these technologies have the power to transform our understanding of normal hematopoietic stem cells and malignant hematopoiesis. The field will identify new epigenetic mechanisms, links to metabolism, and improve our molecular understanding of the stem cell state. I am curious to see if new general themes will be discovered that are deregulated in leukemia, and looking forward to see results of the many clinical trials involving epigenetic drugs.

How would you describe the funding climate for your specific type of research?
There are many funding opportunities and my research is not impeded by a lack of money (thanks to Brad). However, I would like scientists and funding agencies to think about ways to reduce the amount of time that investigators spend writing grants. If the success rate is 5%, it means that for each project that gets funded, 20 scientists spend weeks on a rejected application. That adds up to a lot of lost time and I think it is possible to improve this process.

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?
As I mentioned before, the ISEH provides ample opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals at all stages of their careers. It also offers really good ways to stay up to date through webinars, Hematology 101, Experimental Hematology, the annual meeting, etc.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?

During the 2015 meeting in Japan, we had a Dick lab reunion where two former Japanese trainees (Hidefumi and Katsuto) took us (John, Michael and me) for an authentic Japanese restaurant experience. I love the exposure to different cultures and it’s even better if you can get locals to show you around.

What are your hobbies? Cycling, rollerblading, guitar, eating.
What is your favorite book? Lord of the Rings.
What are your favorite movies? The Matrix and Star Trek.
If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why? Captain Jean-Luc Picard to apply for a scientist position aboard the Enterprise.

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Meet ISEH Vice President Hanna Mikkola

Posted By Connections Editor, Friday, August 19, 2016

Hanna Mikkola is a member of the ISEH board of directors. She is a professor at UCLA in the Department of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology. Dr. Mikkola has been a member of ISEH for 10 years and has in the past she has held positions within the Nominations committee, Finance committee, and Scientific Planning Committee. Her area of expertise is in developmental hematopoiesis, HSC transcriptional, and niche regulation.

 

How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells scientific field?
Growing up is was afraid of (and simultaneously fascinated about) leukemia. I went to med school to become a hematologist, but found that the current treatment strategies and our knowledge of the disease was insufficient to provide proper care for the patients. I called in to the hematology lab in University of Helsinki and told them I wanted to cure leukemia. They offered a position to study inherited blood coagulation disorders, which I accepted, and that became my PhD project. However, during my post-doctoral training, I was eager to move closer to the “cure for leukemia” and started to study hematopoietic stem cells.

What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab/facility?
Our goal is to understand how to make a self-renewing human hematopoietic stem cell. We have worked hard to identify the sites where HSCs are made, markers to isolate them, culture protocols to maintain their unique properties, and to identify key regulatory mechanisms that govern the identity and function of human HSCs. We finally have clues to the underlying molecular defects that prevent the self-renewal of candidate HSCs that were generated in vitro or expanded in culture. We hope that harnessing these powerful regulators to enable human HSC self-renewal in culture will help provide new sources of HSCs for transplantation.

What advice do you have for new investigators entering this scientific field?
Go after your passion, and do not worry too much in advance about potential failures. The successful scientists are not those for who everything was easy (they don't exist) but those who did not care about rejections and failed grant applications, who kept trying again and never stopped believing in their dreams.

What do you find most valuable about ISEH?
ISEH is a true community for those interested in hematopoiesis and stem cells. I value especially their dedication to promote young scientists, for example by having a prestigious plenary session for trainee presentations, and for providing many other opportunities for networking with peers and leaders in the field. I find that the ISEH annual meeting is perhaps the most valuable meeting where to send my trainees.

Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?
I have attended the ISEH meeting every year since I started my own lab in 2005. It is the highlight of the year to meet colleagues and hear about the new trends in the field. Especially for those interested in developmental hematopoiesis, ISEH provides much more than other hematopoiesis/stem cell conferences.

What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?
In 2013, I was awarded the McCulloch and Till award, and the award lecture was the last item in the meeting program. I was so nervous that everyone would have headed home already and I would be speaking for an empty audience. It was so wonderful to see a full lecture hall, and so many friends and colleagues who came to congratulate and tell me that they stayed until the end specifically to listen to my lecture. I was so grateful for the incredible support from ISEH community.

What are your hobbies
?
Riding Dressage, I have four horses and they take most of my free time (and money).

 

What are your favorite books?
Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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

This is a big question that would require some thought. However, my first instinct was to say Tina Turner. She is a true power woman with incredible talent and stamina!

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