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XII Congress of the ABTCel-Gen 2022 - Meeting Highlights


Tatiana Maron-Gutierrez, PhD
Oswaldo Cruz Institute/Fiocruz, Brazil

The XII Congress of the Brazilian Association of Cell and Gene Therapy (ABTCel-Gen) was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on October 25-27, 2022, as a hybrid event. The ABTCel-Gen mission is to promote, encourage, and disseminate research in cell and gene therapy, and bioengineering. By organizing this event, ABTCel-Gen accomplishes its vision to share knowledge and opportunities among professionals from the public and private sectors, in Brazil and abroad.

Over the course of three days, 204 participants attended sessions with Brazilian and international speakers (USA, Argentina, Sweden, Italy, and the United Kingdom) on the most recent advances in gene and cell therapy. Because this year's event was held in the auditorium of the Brazilian National Cancer Institute (INCA), and had invited specialists in this field, special attention was given to cancer cell and gene-related therapies such as the use of CAR-T technology. Furthermore, the meeting featured a variety of lectures and round tables on topics such as vectors for gene therapy, mRNA technology and COVID19 vaccines, tissue engineering, extracellular vesicles for therapy, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) for therapy, clinical trials of gene therapy for monogenic diseases, and Brazilian advanced therapy regulations.

In addition, the meeting included an educational session on genome editing, the ISCT - Cytotherapy manuscript writing workshop, oral and posters presentations. The accepted abstracts were published in a special Abstract Supplement issue online in Cytotherapy (accessible via this direct link). The ISCT South & Central America Region sponsored the Top-Scoring Abstract Awards recognizing outstanding research in the field, which included the top two best posters and the top two oral abstract presentations. The awardees of the Ricadro Ribeiro Dos Santos Award for the best oral presentation were Karina Ribeiro Da Silva Pereira and Marlon Lemos Dias. The awardees of the Julio Cesar Voltarelli Award for best poster presentation were Emmanuel Arthur Albuquerque Aragao and Lucas Pari Mitre.

Bruce Levine, former President of the ISCT, gave the opening lecture of the meeting, presenting data on the efficacy and long-term therapeutic effect of CAR-T cells in hematological cancers. He also discussed the use of this revolutionary methodology in other areas, such as auto-immune diseases and cardiac fibrosis.

Jacques Galipeau, current ISCT President, discussed MSCs therapeutic potency in the mitigation of tissue injury syndromes. He presented data in support of the significance of the MSC/Macrophage dyad and chemokine heterocomplexes in the MSCs secretome. One of the most intriguing aspects of his lecture addressed the lack of replication of the promising results seen in preclinical studies in clinical trials. Again, Jacques presented data on how cell culture and maintenance can affect the potency of MSCs, such as the route of administration affecting persistence and outcome and thawed versus fresh MSCs; where thawed MSCs maintain excellent viability but abnormal membranes and cytoskeleton, and culture rescue restores functionality. Leaving us with the take-home message: “MSC are just like sushi; fresh is best”.

Arnold Caplan gave the final lecture, discussing MSCs´ contribution to the innate capacity of tissue regeneration and how this will change how medicine is practiced. It was an inspiring talk that included a timeline for regenerative medicine and MSCs. Caplan urged us once more to stop referring to MSCs as stem cells. Dr. Caplan believes that "Medicinal Signaling Cells" is the most appropriate term, due to their regenerative and immunomodulatory properties, acting as drug stores at sites of injury and/or inflammation. Caplan quoted Isaac Newton during his presentation, saying, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants". In yoga (as a scientist and yoga teacher), we say that we are holding hands with our masters and teachers. As he told his story, the stories of his predecessors and colleagues, I couldn´t help but think that Caplan himself is undeniably a giant and a teacher, even to those who have never met him in person.

After three days of amazing sessions in collaboration with ABTCel-Gen and ISCT, we are looking forward to more collaborative initiatives and equal success at the next meeting.