The Innate Lymphoid Cell conference in the heart of Berlin | Edina Szabo

The 2nd EMBO Conference on Innate Lymphoid Cells was held in Berlin, Germany at the end of November, 2016. To support the European scientific communities the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) holds conferences and conference series that cover different and evolving aspects of important subject areas. The conference was held in a historic building in the heart of the city, called Kalkscheune (Limestone barn). The place was already set for Christmas, and had a great feeling about it.

The first day of the conference started with registration in the afternoon, followed by two intensive full days, and closing with the Gala dinner. Dan Littman from the NYU School of Medicine, New York, gave the keynote lecture, and well introduced the topic with his talk entitled “Role of ILCs in integrating host responses to microbiota”. The keynote lecture was followed by a session on “ILC development and activation” with speakers from the US, Netherlands, from the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and McGill University in Montreal.

The second day started early at 8.30 am with talks on “Regulation of ILC fate and functions”, and continued with “ILCs homeostasis” in the afternoon. I have particularly enjoyed the talk by David Withers from the University of Birmingham. His group is looking at the importance of a particular receptor for cytokine production by ILC3 cells in the small intestine. Another talk that caught my attention during the afternoon session was the “ILCs and immune regulation at barrier surfaces” presented by David Artis from Cornell University, New York. His findings showed that commensal microbes have a significant regulatory influence on lymphocyte, innate lymphoid cell, and granulocyte function. After the talks we had a chance to explore the city a little bit in the evening, and try the local cuisine.

The final day started early as well, and by then most of us were pretty exhausted, but we had great talks and the gala dinner to look forward to. Emily Thornton’s talk from University of Oxford, was very interesting, which was exploring how ILC3s are involved in the initiation of acute intestinal inflammation. In the afternoon also several talks were on intestinal ILCs, including speaker such as Henrique Veiga-Fernandes from Lisboa, Arthur Mortha from New York, and David Voehringer from Germany. My favourite talk of the day and the whole conference was the “Innate lymphoid cells and IL-22: functional analysis in zebrafish” by Pedro Pablo Hernandez, whose project is to investigate the existence of ILCs and the conservation of the function of IL-22, which is produced by ILC3 cells.

The highlight of the day was the Gala dinner in the Natural History Museum, right by the dinosaur exhibition.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank NSERC CREATE HPI for funding to attend this conference. I had a great time at the conference, and learnt a lot about ILCs, as well as I had a chance to visit some of my family in Berlin.

 

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Immunophenotyping at the beautiful settings of Cambridgeshire

The Wellcome Genome Campus held one of their newest advanced courses in Cambridge, UK, at the end of February. The course is based on the phenotyping screen done by the Infection and Immunity Immunophenotyping (3i) consortium (www.immunophenotype.org) that is part of the high-throughput phenotyping at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI). They are set to conduct high-throughput immunological phenotyping of 800 knockout mouse lines generated by WTSI.

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The course was designed to teach PhD students and postdoctoral fellows more advanced techniques on generation and analysis of immunological datasets. During the course, we went through some immunological assays, and advanced flow cytometry data analysis, which was really useful for my current project. We also had the opportunity to visit the animal facility and closely observe generation of knockout mice.

Registration started on Sunday afternoon, and was followed by an introduction of the lead instructors and the course content. Prof Adrian Hayday, from the leading institution, King’s College London, opened the course with an inspirational talk. Then, we all headed to enjoy some welcome drinks at the local bar. Supper was arranged locally at the institute, which made it even easier to have a chat with other participants as well as the instructors and organisers. Everyone probably, put on some weight during their stay; I did anyway, as they had a great cook making delicious food every day.

The week was very busy, as we started early every day and haven’t finished before late evening. We spent the first half of the week mainly in the lab, working on different assays, e.g. CD8 degranulation assay, epidermal staining, immunohistochemistry, and also had a chance to explore transmission electron microscopy. Early in the week, we had a wine and cheese session where we all could present our work. The second half of the week was more about the data analysis, particularly flow cytometry analysis. The 12-colour flow cytometry panel was quite exciting, and everyone learnt something new during the analysis.

Besides the hard work, we had lots of fun as well, particularly at the bar where Dr Williams Jacobs, who is from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, mostly led the conversations. We visited the local pub, called the Red Lion, and had a great night talking not just about science. The course dinner was on the last night, which made it difficult for some to get up early to catch their train the next morning.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has an amazing campus about 30 minutes outside of Cambridge. It has greatly developed since I was there a few years ago as they built several new buildings on the site. However, you can still enjoy the traditional building with its all glory. Here, I managed to catch Dr William Jacobs, and Dr Richard Grencis, from University of Manchester for a quick photo. And if you got up early enough you could enjoy an amazing sunrise right outside the Wellcome Trust grounds.

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I would like to take the opportunity to thank NSERC CREATE HPI for funding to attend this course.

Edina Szabo

Postdoctoral Fellow (Finney Lab)

Immunoparasitology conference in the quiet town of Woods Hole

The Woods Hole Immunoparasitology Conference was held over three days in the small town of Woods Hole, in Massachusetts, at one of the largest Oceanographic Institutions. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side and it has been cloudy and rainy most of the time we were there.

As I have recently joined the immunoparasitology field it was really useful for me to attend this conference to become more familiar with current research and techniques used in the field. As this conference is on a smaller scale, it offered a good overview of the most recent unpublished data other scientists in the field are working on. The attendance of ecologists, who are working with parasites, made the conference particularly interesting this year.

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The conference started on a Sunday evening with really interesting opening talks on the immunologist’s view by Dr. Chris Hunter and on the ecologist’s view by Dr. Nicole Mideo. Following the keynote speakers we dived into the first session of the event with the topic of co-infections. This was particularly important for me as my research is focused on Helminths and Toxoplasma co-infection. I enjoyed the talk by Melanie Clerc from Edinburgh, UK, on “Co-infection and immunity affect parasite burden in the wild; insights from a wild wood mouse system”.

The first full day of the conference started early and offered talks on Leishmania, myeloid cells and malaria. The talk by Dr. Mark Viney on “The immune lives of wild mice” was particularly interesting. They characterised the immune status of a large number of wild mice, which is not as well known as for their laboratory relatives. The poster session was every evening of the conference and I had the chance to present some of the work from the Finney lab. In the evening, poster presentations went into social hours, discussion and conversations lasted until late at night accompanied by a couple of drinks.

The last day of the conference offered talks on Helminths, host defense, lymphocytes and immunopathology. One of the most interesting talks for me was by Sarah Budischak on the fitness costs of helminth infection in African buffalo. As well, I was looking forward to hearing Dr. Dionne Robinson’s talk entitled “Biological sex is a major determinant of the immune response to Toxoplasma gondii”, and the great overview of Dr. John Mansfield’s work on African Trypanosomiasis. As I have been working with trypanosomes in the past I found another talk on Trypanosomiasis fascinating by Dr. Paul Capewell from Glasgow, UK. He discussed asymptomatic trypanosomiasis in patients and its consequences.

Before dinner we had a chance to look around in the area and finally enjoy a little bit of sunshine. The conference closed with another amazing dinner offering wide variety of choices, and the night finished with drinks and dancing in addition to great science discussions.

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I found this conference very useful for me. Besides the great discussions, I have managed to improve my knowledge on current immunoparasitology research. As well, I heard several talks relevant to my Toxoplasma work. I also wanted to highlight the nice food and the great service we all appreciated during the three days.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank NSERC CREATE HPI for the funding to attend this conference.

Edina Szabo

Postdoctoral Fellow (Finney Lab)

Great science and amazing mountain views at the Banff Inflammation Workshop 2015

The 9th Banff Inflammation Workshop was organised by the Inflammation Research Network (IRN) to bring together leading scientists of the field. I have recently joined Dr. Constance Finney’s lab, moving from Scotland to Calgary. Therefore, this event gave me the opportunity to meet local researchers, as well as international experts of the inflammation field. The meeting offered a great overview of the most current and some yet unpublished inflammation research of mechanisms, intestinal and neuroinflammation from scientists from Canada and other parts of the world.

On the first evening, Mauro Perretti from London opened the meeting with one of the best and most entertaining keynote talks on “Exploiting endogenous tissue protection”. The talk was followed by an informal session with a chance for networking. The first full day of the meeting started with a buffet breakfast in the spectacular setting of the Canadian Rockies.

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The sessions on the first day focused on the mechanisms and consequences of inflammation. I was particularly interested in a talk on “Mucosal immunology in intestinal inflammation” by Thierry Mallevaey. His talk on NKT cell cytokine production, activation and immune regulatory function was really interesting and relevant to my research. I also found the talk by Scott Magness from North Carolina fascinating on novel in vitro technologies, including powerful microtechnology to develop the “minigut”. As I have been working with epithelial cells in the past and interested in intestinal epithelial cell functions, I was looking forward to hear Bruce Vallance’s talk on intestinal epithelial inflammasomes.

The last session of the day offered advice for interviews and useful tips for composing your CV and cover letter, while trainees also had a chance to get some insight into application processes for a faculty position. I found this session very useful as it helped me become more familiar with career opportunities and development progress in Canada. The poster session, which took place before dinner, was a good opportunity to ask further questions about projects I was interested in, and talk to researchers about their work at the University of Calgary and elsewhere. The day closed with a unique dinner at the local Swiss-Italian restaurant, Ticino, where we had a chance to try the cheese and chocolate fondue beside the delicious main course. I have really enjoyed this dinner and would go back in future if I visited Banff.

The last day of the workshop offered talks specifically on intestinal inflammation, neuroinflammation and pain. Talks included case studies of inflammatory bowel disease by Aleixo Muise, epithelial barrier function by Declan McCole and mucosal inflammatory responses by Sean Colgan. In the afternoon we had a chance for informal meetings and to explore the Banff area before the poster session. If you felt the weight of the last days’s over-indulgence you could hop on the treadmill or enjoy a swim in the pool.

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The meeting closed with another very nice 3-course dinner followed by the poster award ceremony, when I was wishing I had presented one.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank HPI for the funding to attend the Banff Inflammation Workshop this year.

Edina Szabo, PhD

Post-doctoral Fellow (Finney Lab)