The field of regenerative medicine offers tantalizing hope for the repair and replacement of damaged organs and tissues, with the ultimate goal of restoring normal tissue function. This field represents an enormous range of biological, chemical and biophysical technologies that harness the restorative properties of living materials, especially human cells, to produce new molecular and cellular medicines, diagnostics, devices and healthcare research tools. The goal of this Biochemical Society Annual Symposium was to explore the key biochemical determinants of tissue regeneration, and we highlight the contribution of biochemistry to this emerging field of regenerative medicine.

The language of biochemistry is changing. Phrases such as ‘intellectual property space,’ ‘tractable targets’ and ‘clinical trial’ have joined the biochemist's vernacular of chemical structures, functions and signalling pathways. Accompanying this change is an increased appreciation of the clinical relevance of biochemical research, focused on the contribution this research can make to identifying and targeting new disease pathways with the potential to improve patient health. Within this brave new world, the field of regenerative medicine offers tantalizing hope for the repair and replacement of damaged organs and tissues with the ultimate goal of restoring normal tissue functionality. This field represents an enormous range of biological, chemical and biophysical technologies that harness the restorative properties of living materials, especially human cells, to produce new molecular and cellular medicines, diagnostics, devices and healthcare research tools.

Our aims for this year's Annual Symposium on the Biochemical Determinants of Tissue Regeneration were to highlight the contribution of biochemistry within the emerging field of regenerative medicine and for participants to gain a greater understanding of key biochemical determinants of regeneration. To achieve this, we organized an outstanding line-up of internationally recognized speakers that included clinicians, chemists, biologists and biophysicists. In addition, we made the conscious decision to encourage public participation in our Symposium by making this year's keynote session by Professor Molly Stevens open to members of the public and accompanied by a moderated panel discussion. We felt the topic of this year's Symposium and its openness to the public was timely and relevant given the U.K. governmental support for regenerative medicine, and the recent fundamental and clinical advances achieved by U.K. scientists working in this area.

Our scientific programme encompassed a broad range of topics, including the fundamental biochemistry of tissue regeneration, recent advances in interventional regenerative medicine, bioengineering and biomaterials for tissue regeneration, and the regenerative process of aging. To our knowledge, this meeting was the first of its kind to cover all of these diverse themes within a single conference. Highlights of this year's conference covered in this issue of Biochemical Society Transactions include fundamental explorations of the molecular and biochemical basis of vertebrate limb and tail regeneration in salamanders and tadpoles [1,2], the determinants of lineage plasticity, environmental reprogramming and cellular transdifferentiation in liver, pancreas, skin and thymus [3,4], and the role of glycoproteins and external mechanical signals in driving cellular signalling and phenotype determination [57]. Clinical highlights included presentations on the biochemical mediators of aging within the skin and thymus [8,9] and the potential utility of exogenously delivered stem cell therapies to regenerate damaged nerves, airways and other tissues [1012]. In addition, the Symposium included a ‘hot topic’ session on emerging themes in tissue regeneration. Highlights of this session included an exploration of novel bioengineered tools to track and control the fate of exogenously delivered stem cells [13], a presentation on the establishment of mechanistic in silico models capable of predicting stem cell behaviour in intestinal crypts [14] and the discovery that transient reprogramming of somatic cells towards a pluripotent state can be achieved in vivo in living animals [15].

In summary, we hope you enjoy this compendium of highlights from the 2013 Biochemical Society Annual Symposium. Although we cannot provide a comprehensive overview of the many biochemical determinants of tissue regeneration, we nonetheless hope the papers included in this issue of Biochemical Society Transactions do provide you with new areas and ways of thinking about this emerging scientific discipline.

Biochemical Determinants of Tissue Regeneration: Biochemical Society Annual Symposium No. 81 held at Shrigley Hall Hotel, Macclesfield, U.K., 11–13 December 2013. Organized and Edited by Adam Giangreco (University College London, U.K.) and Catherine Merry (University of Manchester, U.K.).

References

References
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Mechanisms underlying vertebrate limb regeneration: lessons from the salamander
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Coupled cellular therapy and magnetic targeting for airway regeneration
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Engineering tissue for the fetus: stem cells and matrix signalling
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Bioengineering tools to elucidate and control the fate of transplanted stem cells
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