The Zandstra Lab welcomes the Michael Smith Laboratories during Open House

In December 2018, Michael Smith Laboratories’ trainees, faculty, and staff were invited to visit the newly-renovated Zandstra lab at their Open House. Located in UBC’s Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), the Zandstra Stem Cell Bioengineering lab focuses on the generation of functional tissue from somatic and pluripotent stem cells with a major focus on the blood system. The lab aims to gain new insights into fundamental mechanisms that control stem cell fate by developing robust technologies for the propagation of stem cells and its derivatives, and doing pre-clinical research towards creating regenerative medicine-based therapeutics for blood diseases.

The Zandstra lab is based on these 4 pillars: (1) Multi-scale Modelling, (2) Synthetic Cells, (3) Synthetic Niches, and (4) New Therapeutics for Blood Diseases. Photo courtesy of the Zandstra Lab website.

Greeted with hot beverages and cookies, the Open House was a casual event where members from the Zandstra lab socialized with their colleagues at the Michael Smith Laboratories, exchanging research information and providing opportunities for prospective future collaborations.

The Open House included a lab tour that began with an introduction by Dr. Peter Zandstra who explained the foundation of their work and its importance. He showed the groups images and computational models of stem cell self-organization in the dry-lab while explaining their overall lab research questions. The curious groups were then walked over to the wet-lab where Dr. Andrew Hagner, a Postdoctoral Fellow, talked about his current research and the application of automation/machine learning to control the expansion of human cord blood-derived hematopoietic stem cells. Thereafter, the groups met Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Himanshu Kaul, who spoke about developing computational strategies to quantify the spatiotemporal evolution of spatially constrained pluripotent stem cell populations as they differentiate towards mesoderm and blood lineages. Next, Carla Zimmerman talked about her role in the lab as a Research Technician, and showed the group the cell culture facilities and flow cytometry equipment she uses to support the lab’s research programs. The open-concept lab was very impressive and well-equipped with advanced cell and molecular biology instrumentation including cell type specific tissue culturing facilities, a real-time PCR machine, protein and cell imaging system, micropatterning equipment, and bioreactors for scalable cell production. Dr. Peter Zandstra ended the lab tour with a Q&A period, to which the groups had many.

Overall, the Open House was a great chance to meet colleagues from the Michael Smith Laboratories. The Michael Smith Laboratories is a multidisciplinary unit that combines biology and technology to discover innovative solutions to society’s most important problems. The Michael Smith Laboratories creates an atmosphere for positive collaborations and discussion, by taking the time to learn about other labs in the unit and their research.