On January 23, 2023,iCeMS Prof Jun Suzuki hosted a Leading Scientist Seminar with Prof Oscar Lee, vice superintendent, China Medical University Hospital (CMUH). CMUH and Kyoto University have a long-standing relationship which began in 1987. Suzuki introduced Lee saying it was through his efforts that iCeMS and CMUH were able to sign an MOU last year strengthening their commitment to collaboration. Lee noted that it had been over ten years since he last spoke in the iCeMS lecture hall.
Lee’s lecture was titled “Crosstalk between Mechanobiology and Fate Choice of Stem Cells.” He asked how cells sense the mechanical environment and how we can regulate the behavior of cells by regulating their environment? He addressed these questions through research developments in both stem cell therapies for liver disease and in potential treatments for hair regeneration.
According to Lee, CMUH began working on hepatic reprogramming over 20 years ago and that Kyoto University now stands as a world leader in that field of research. Lee’s group developed a three-step protocol to chemically induce differentiation in 2012, but he said it still wasn’t enough. His recent work showed how the stiffness of the substrate the cells were propagated on had a direct effect on the on differentiation and gene expression. Controlling the hardness/softness of the substrate could fine-tune the production of the desired organ, muscle, or bone cells.
Lee also discussed his students’ work which focused on the hair growth cycle and how physically manipulating the cells, this time by maintaining stretch on the skin for set time periods, was able to influence the chemical cycles and encourage hair regeneration.
Both areas of research highlighted that an understanding of the complexity of cell biomechanics and environment and not just the chemical properties have promising implications in future therapies.
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