TechTalk – Expanded Potential Stem Cells: A New Tool for Basic and Translational Research

August 3, 2023 (Thursday) 4:30-5:30pm
Mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) derived from the epiblast contribute to the somatic lineages and the germline upon reintroduction to the blastocyst but are excluded from the extraembryonic tissues in the placenta that are derived from the trophectoderm (TE) and the primitive endoderm (PrE). By inhibiting signal pathways implicated in the earliest embryo development, we established cultures of mouse expanded potential stem cells (EPSCs) from individual 4-cell and 8-cell blastomeres, by direct conversion of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and through reprogramming somatic cells. Bona fide trophoblast stem cell (TSC) lines, extra-embryonic endoderm stem (XEN) cells, and ESCs could be directly derived from EPSCs in vitro. The knowledge of mouse EPSCs has enabled the establishment of EPSCs of human, pig, bovine and additional mammalian species. EPSCs of these species share similar molecular features and developmental potentials. They are genetically and epigenetically stable, can be maintained in homogenous long-term cultures and permit efficient precision and complex genome editing. EPSCs thus provide new tools for studying normal development and open up new avenues for translational research in biotechnology, agriculture, and regenerative medicine. For example, we find that early syncytiotrophoblasts produced from human TSCs are highly susceptible to coronavirus infection. This finding has enabled the development of a new stem cell-based antiviral drug discovery technology. I will discuss our thoughts on collaborations with engineering colleagues.

TechTalk – Pandemic Preparedness and Response in the Age of Information

Global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have largely been suboptimal due to significant underdevelopment of infrastructure, human capital and analytics in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPR). In particular, epidemic nowcasting has been universally challenging because it requires distilling informative or actionable insights from diverse range of real-world data which are often biased. Misinterpretation, misrepresentation or otherwise misuse of these nowcasts will fuel infodemics, as we have learned to our detriment during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will discuss some lessons learned from COVID-19 and how we can strengthen pandemic PPR in the Age of Information.

TechTalk – Rapid Diagnostic Tests for Emerging Infectious Diseases

Emerging infectious diseases, such as COVID-19 and pandemic influenza, have a significant impact on the healthcare system and the society. Rapid diagnostic tests are essential for guiding patient management and infection control measures, which lead to improvement in patient outcome and prevent outbreaks in the community and in hospitals. In recent years, fully automated testing has greatly reduced the complexity of diagnostic testing and shortened the turn-around time. Despite their potential benefits, several challenges need to be addressed. In this talk, Professor To will present the advances in rapid diagnostic testing, and will discuss about the hurdles in implementing these novel technologies in real-life settings.

TechTalk – Biomimetic Soft Materials for Bio-Integrated Smart Devices

Biological tissues are soft, dynamic, and water-rich, while abiotic tools are typically rigid, static, and dry. These differences in physical properties have presented challenges for the development of advanced biomedical systems that require interfacing with the human body. In this presentation, I will introduce our recent work on biomimetic soft composites as a platform for engineering bio-integrated devices that can potentially bridge this gap. These synthetic materials capture important structural features of natural soft tissues and exhibit tissue-mimetic reconfigurability, robustness, and functionality, making them advantageous for constructing bio-interfaces. Soft electronic components were also integrated into the biomimetic materials platform, enabling multifunctional systems for physiological sensing and targeted stimulation. Examples of these smart biomedical tools include artificial cartilage and tendons, electroconductive hydrogels, and organ-integrated 3D electronics, which create exciting opportunities in advanced biomedicine.

Digitisation of Human Body Motion for Garment Production

Garment production is a laborious process that relies primarily on manual operations. Smart robots are set to play a vital role in future automations and assist human workers with repetitive and/or high-risk tasks. To achieve interactive human-robot collaborations, robots need to learn and understand how humans work and thus a cost-effective means of digitising manual operations is of the essence. In this project, we aim at developing an innovative approach to high-fidelity, real-time full-body motion capture for garment workers without using specialty cameras.

Detection and Diagnostics of Airborne Viruses

A lot of diseases can be transmitted via airborne agents, such as viruses spreading through droplets. The concentrations of these airborne agents are usually too low in the environment and it has created difficulties for the current detection instruments available in the market. We aim to fill this gap by developing new technologies to enhance detection and diagnostics of airborne viruses.