IMBA is part of UNISTEM DAY WORLDWIDE- an event dedicated to stem cell research

Technological innovation, new discoveries in the field of stem cells and how to recognize fake news: these are some of the themes on the table for UniStem Day 2019, the largest outreach event on stem cell research for high school students, taking place at 99 Universities and Research Institutes in 15 Countries worldwide, targeting over 30.000 students.

On March 15th, 99 Universities and Research Institutes simultaneously engage with more than 30.000 students who are the protagonists of a day entirely dedicated to science with seminars, discussions, round tables and laboratories activities. This year, UniStem Day becomes a worldwide event spreading across 4 Continents. Universities and Research centers in Australia, Colombia and Singapore join their European colleagues on such an exciting day dedicated to stem cells.

Originally conceived at the University of Milan in 2009, the event is an opportunity to foster learning, discovery and debate in the field of stem cell research, thus representing a way to inspire and stimulate interest in science among the younger generation. Technological innovation, new discoveries in the field of stem cells and how to recognize fake news: these are some of the themes of UniStem Day. The event is not only about science, it’s about engaging, inspiring and having fun at the same time.

IMBA, in partnership with the Vienna Open Lab and Open Science, brought UniStem Day to Austria in 2018, for the first time. The event has been a big success and in 2019 registrations tripled: More than 366 students are registered this year. "We are pleased that this initiative is so well received by students and teachers who seem to be keen on bringing their knowledge about stem cells to the very latest state of research. After all, stem cell research is one of the most dynamic research fields and has become an important driver of biomedicine", says Jürgen Knoblich, scientific director of IMBA.

In 2013, his lab developed "brain organoids," small stem-cell-derived organ models that replicate and screen many human diseases. Since 2016, the stem cell focus at IMBA has been continuously expanding. Since then, iPS cells have been cultivated in the in-house Stem Cell Core Facility, where human body cells, derived from blood or skin samples, are reprogrammed into stem cells. The IMBA Stem Cell Core Facility supports research groups in Austria and abroad that use stem cells in a variety of contexts, from brain and heart development to disease modeling and organoid research and provides expert service in cutting edge technologies, and disseminate knowledge by training the next generation of stem cell researchers.

UniStem Day 2019 starts with an introductory lecture about stem cells by IMBA group leader Ulrich Elling, followed by practical courses and hands on workshops organized by the Vienna Open Lab. Students then have the opportunity to practice cell splitting and changing culture media with real iPS cell cultures from IMBA's stem cell facility and can dip into the daily routine of working with stem cells. The ethical dimensions of stem cell research are discussed and reflected on with an ethical role-playing game - organized by the scientific association Open Science and the IMBA Ethics & Biosafety Team - students can take the role of doctors, researchers, ethicists or patients and explore the social effects of stem cell technologies.

Engagement and exchange with students is an integral part of the scientific mission of IMBA. "It is very exciting for us researchers to see how the young generation approaches stem cell technology and its potential. The students’ interest and enthusiasm is a great incentive for us to bring our current knowledge about stem cells straight from the lab to the classroom. They could be the researchers of tomorrow!” adds Jürgen Knoblich.



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