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UVM Hosts 5th Biennial “Stem Cells and Cell Therapies in Lung Biology Conference” July 29 to August 1

2011 Stem Cells and Cell Therapies in Lung Biology Conference at the UVM Davis Center (Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

On July 29, 2013, leading lung disease researchers from around the globe arrived at the University of Vermont to participate in the fifth biennial “Stem Cells and Cell Therapies in Lung Biology Conference.” Since the meeting’s initiation eight years ago by UVM Professor of Medicine and lung specialist Daniel Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., the field has achieved a number of milestones, including promising strides in the area of bioengineering new lungs. More than 150 participants attended the invitation-only conference, which took place at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel and Conference Center on July 29 and at the Dudley H. Davis Center at UVM July 30 through August 1, 2013.

Lung diseases, and especially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, are increasing in prevalence, with COPD predicted to be the third leading cause of death worldwide by the year 2020. With a reported $49.9 billion in related health care costs in 2009, the need to both prevent disease and identify new treatments is critical. 

Co-chaired by Weiss and Darwin Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular medicine and director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White Hospital, this conference brought together leaders in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine to UVM for four days. Sessions featured innovative research in mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) biology, endogenous lung progenitor cells, embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed pluripotent stem cells, tissue engineering strategies and cell-based therapies.

The rising number of clinical trials examining cell therapies in lung diseases – including the landmark multicenter trial of MSCs for COPD conducted at UVM – were a focus at this year’s conference. Other cutting-edge discussion topics included findings from the rapidly-progressing field of ex vivo lung bioengineering research, which involves the use of a scaffold – or framework – of lungs from human cadavers to engineer new lungs for patients with end-stage disease.

In addition to internationally recognized leaders in the field, junior investigators, including Darcy Wagner, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine, who works in Weiss’ lab, presented at the meeting. For the first time, an entire session devoted to career development in lung regenerative medicine was offered, featuring speakers from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

This conference was supported by the NHLBI, the Alpha-1 Foundation, American Thoracic Society, European Respiratory Society, the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, the UVM College of Medicine, the Vermont Lung Center, and several industry sources. For more information, view the conference agenda.

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