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The first in Bulgaria scientific symposium on ‘Epigenetics and Signalling in Stem Cells’ was held on 16 and 17 April. This forum is the first international scientific event of the TranStem project, funded by the European Commission, under Horizon 2020 programme. The project aims to unlock, promote and maintain research studies in the field of stem cells at the University and in the region to the highest world levels. The project will implement research developments focused on both fundamental research on stem cells and their clinical application for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. The Research Institute of MU – Varna is in the process of establishing a research group of prominent scientists in the field of translational stem cell biology, headed by Dr. Manlio Vinciguerra, D.Sc.

The meeting took place fully on – line and was opened by Prof. Dr. Christina Grupcheva, Vice – Rector of Science and Research, MU – Varna. She thanked all scientists for their participation and expressed her satisfaction with the efforts made for the organisation and the high scientific level of the symposium. Prof. Grupcheva outlined the significance of the topic discussed and underlined, “We hope that our multinational family will go on expanding with new members very soon. However, the main and most crucial thing is that we have managed to create a network of scientists from all over the world. Conducting such symposiums is the very first step, and subsequently we will continue to work towards developing and strengthening the scientific achievements in this field. I would like, on behalf of the Rector Prof. Dr. Valentin Ignatov and on behalf of the Academic Community at Medical University – Varna, to congratulate you on this initiative and to wish you a pleasant and fruitful meeting.”

The forum was opened by Dr. Manlio Vinciguerra, European Research Area (ERA) Chair in Translational Stem Cell Biology. With presentations in the virtual auditorium at WebEx platform, within two days, prominent lecturers from prestigious research institutions discussed and illustrated the latest major conceptual and methodological accomplishments in the field of embryonic, adult and induced pluripotent stem cells. These facets were discussed both from the perspective of fundamental science and from preclinical point of view.

The topic discussed on the first day was “Embryonic and Adult Pluripotent Stem Cells”. Prof.  Luciano Di Croce from the Centre for Genome Regulation, Barcelona, was the first to present his research on “Epigenetic regulation of adult stem cells and cancer cells”. Afterwards, Dr. Yaser Atlasi from Queen’s University Belfast explored the topic of pluripotent stem cells. The research development by Dr. Vladimir Rotrekl from Masaryk University in Brno entitled “HIF-1 and MAPK driven metabolic modulation of human pluripotent stem cells’ epigenome” provoked a great interest. Dr. Giancarlo Forte, Director of the Center for Translational Medicine (CTM) at the International Clinical Research Center in Brno, spoke about the mechanobiology of diseases. The report presented by Dr. Manlio Vinciguerra was entitled “Histone variant macroH2A1.1 enhances non-homologous end joining-dependent DNA double-strand-break repair and reprogramming efficiency of human iPSC”. The first day of the scientific symposium ended with a presentation by David Hay from the University of Edinburgh, investigating the topic “Building human liver tissue from pluripotent stem cells”.

During the second day of the meeting, the scientists presented reports related to the topic “Adult Cell Stemness and Plasticity”. Dr. Oxana Bereshchenko from the University of Perugia presented the topic “Pathways controlled by glucocorticoids in hematopoletic stem cells”.

Prof.  Anton Tonchev, Director of the Research Institute at MU – Varna, presented a report on “Transcriptional profiles of cells in the adult primate neurogenic niches after cerebral ischemia”.

The Deputy Director “Institute – Hospital Coordination” at the Research Institute Prof. Igor Resnick spoke about “Biological properties of MSC and their use in BMT setting”. Dr. Benoit Gauthier, Sevilla, Spain, discussed the topic of “Immune Coupled Trans – Regeneration for the Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases”. “The human liver progenitor cell niche in regeneration and cancer” was the topic presented by Prof. Tania Roskams from the University of Leuven.

Dr. Manlio Vinciguerra closed the symposium with the words, “Thank you all for your participation! That was an extremely fruitful meeting, as we had the opportunity to learn a lot of new things. Under these complicated circumstances, holding on – line forums is the only way for us to learn from each other and keep abreast of the latest developments in the field.”