Meeting report: 'Development of the dopaminergic system – from stem cells to circuits'

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The first specialist conference, “Development of the Dopaminergic System from Stem Cells to Circuits” (DDSSCC), co-organised by Dr Emmanouil Metzakopian, UK DRI Fellow at Cambridge, took place at the Fodele Beach Hotel on the island of Crete, 12-14 May 2019. This promising research field investigates how our midbrain, the part of the brain that is affected in Parkinson’s disease, develops, with the aim of unveiling opportunities for regenerative medicine. The conference will take place every two years, and is a great opportunity to hear about the breadth of dopamine neuron development and cell replacement therapy research being undertaken world-wide.

An international selection of speakers from North America, Europe and Asia presented their research, networked, and discussed the future of the field. Topics included ventral midbrain fate specification, circuits and axon guidance, dopamine neuron diversity, in vitro models, and cell replacement strategies for Parkinson’s disease

The talks opened with Prof Awartramani (Northwestern University) giving a historic overview of the dopamine field and Parkinson’s disease. Prof Anders Björklund, Developmental and Regenerative Neurobiology at Lund University, gave an excellent overview of results from the first cell replacement clinical trials for Parkinson’s disease, unfolding the potential of this therapeutic strategy. Finally, we also had a motivational speech from Andrew Cassy (Parkinson’s Disease UK) giving a patients perspective of why research and meetings such as these are so important to help improve treatment and give hope for the future.

Talks were given by Prof Wolfgang Wurst (Director of the Institute of Developmental Genetics, Helmholz Institute), Prof Thomas Perlmann (Karolinska Institute and Nobel Assembly), Prof Sandra Blaess (University of Bonn) , Prof Claude Brodski (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), Prof Martin Levesque (Lavel University and CERVO), Prof Ernest Arenas (Karolinska Institute), Dr Lorenz Studer (Director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), Prof Su-Chun Zhang (Director of Neuroscience & Behavioural Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS) and Dr Emmanouil Metzakopian (UK DRI Fellow at Cambridge University), to name a few.

The goal is to bring together dopamine neuron and stem cell biologists towards advancing understanding and therapeutics for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. We hope to see this move forward with next cell replacement clinical trials for Parkinson’s disease in the very near future. This meeting would not have been possible without the co-organizers who helped shape the scientific program, Profs. Sandra Blaess, Raj Awartramani, and Martin Levesque. A special thanks to Cambioscience, without their professionalism, course and conference organizational skills this meeting would not have been such a success Co-organiser, Dr Emmanouil Metzakopian, UK DRI at Cambridge
Crete Conf Session

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