The American Association of Anatomists will gather this week for its annual meeting in conjunction with the Experimental Biology 2012 conference, which will draw more than 14,000 scientists from industry, government and academia. Below are some programming highlights for the anatomy meeting. All presentations will be made at the San Diego Convention Center.
Stem cells derived from breast milk that behave like embryonic stem cells
Scientists in Australia have discovered that human breast milk contains stem cells that behave very much like embryonic stem cells. These breast-milk-derived, embryonic-like stem cells are able to turn into various body cell types, including bone, fat, liver, pancreatic and brain cells. Because breast milk is plentiful and can be accessed noninvasively and ethically, this discovery opens new avenues for exploration of innovative stem-cell therapies. Also, breast milk stem cells can be used as a physiological model to study malignant transformation that occurs in breast cancer, and therefore the findings may set the basis for research into new treatments for this disease. The group is now trying to understand the potential role of these breast milk cells for breastfed babies. (12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. Tuesday, 4/24, poster in exhibit area)
The buzz about the exquisite little brains of big insects
A long tradition of studying invertebrates to learn about nervous systems has contributed greatly to our understanding of the functional organization, development and evolution of the intricate networks and the neural mechanisms that are at the root of behavior. Insects in particular offer powerful experimental model systems. Today, the most prominent example is the fruit fly, whose genetic and genomic advantages attract many researchers, but whose small size is limiting for some kinds of studies. This session focuses on much larger insects with beautiful and experimentally tractable nervous systems that permit investigations that complement and extend those accomplished with diminutive species. (10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Monday, 4/23, Room 9)
From babies to bandages: reactivation of embryonic processes in adult injury repair
Embryonic tissue development and adult wound repair happen at different points in the life spectrum, but the molecules, cells and processes in that give rise to embryonic development are the same as those activated after injury. Only, the time it takes and the extent of the tissue-forming activities are quite different. Nonetheless, at this session, you might come to find that development and wound repair are just two sides of the same coin. (10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Monday, 4/23, Room 7A)
Could cartilage transplants eliminate the need for bone grafts?
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, were disappointed at first when the cartilage they were trying to regrow in damaged knees and joints did what cartilage is supposed to do: It turned into bone. But then it was brought to their attention that that natural process might be used to heal those with broken bones and for whom bone grafts, which involve taking bone tissue from elsewhere in the body and sometimes from cadavers, aren't a good option. At this session on tissue engineering, regeneration and repair, the UCSF researchers will talk about how they ended up promoting new bone growth by transplanting cartilage and what the results might mean for the future of bone repair. (8 - 10 a.m. Monday, 4/23, Room 7A)
The genetic, cellular and molecular roots of craniofacial birth defects
Craniofacial abnormalities such as cleft lip and cleft palate are two of the most common birth defects. While it is understood that both genetics and environment play a part in these malformations, researchers seeking to prevent them and more effectively treat them are digging into the causes at the most basic level. This symposium will feature scientists doing both clinical and basic cutting-edge research on craniofacial development to reveal the underpinnings of the anatomical defects. (8 - 10 a.m. Tues., 4/24, Room 8)
Novel views of the eye: We hope to see you there!
You probably know someone who is color blind, but do you know how color blindness occurs? And what if it could be reversed? Color blindness strikes when the color-sensing pigments, or cones, in the retina are missing. If just one type of cone is missing, a person might have difficulty distinguishing between red and green. If another is missing, he or she might have trouble seeing blue-yellow in addition to reds and greens. Some people with the most severe form of color blindness can't see any colors at all: Their worlds are shades of gray. This session will feature talks about a number of vision science topics, including gene therapy as a possible cure for color blindness. Find out about one research team that inserted a human cone, via a virus, into a color blind model animal and the promising results the experiment yielded, offering hope for those with vision disorders and potentially a new tool for exploring the visual system's resiliency. (10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Wed., April 25, Room 7B)
A critical look at scientists' performance during times of crisis
Scientists are important sources for the media and policymakers in times of crisis. This is something that Christopher Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts knows all too well: His services were needed after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010. Reddy argues that most academic scientists are not prepared for high-profile attention and don't understand the implications of their actions. In this session, he will critique how scientists - including him - performed in the wake of the oil spill and will advocate for them to get more training about life outside the Ivory Tower. Other session participants also will share their experiences, advice and anecdotes of communicating with students, the public, the media and lawmakers. (8 a.m. - 10 a.m. Sat., April 21, Room 7B)
American Association of Anatomists