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EMBO conference takes to the sea

 

Almost 180 participants embarked on MS Trollfjord last May to learn the latest on molecular mechanisms of autophagy. The focus was on the regulation of autophagosome biogenesis and the role of selective types of autophagy in health and disease.

 

MS Trollfjord

The organisers of the EMBO conference Autophagy: Molecular mechanism, physiology and pathology that took place in Norway in early May, selected a rather unusual venue for participants.The meeting took place on a cruise ship. Around 180 scientists attended the event organized by Anne Simonsen from the University of Oslo and EMBO Member Sharon Tooze from Cancer Research UK. The conference brought together experts from different disciplines and provided ample opportunity for discussions and interdisciplinary exchange.


MS Trollfjord left Bergen on the 5 May and stopped at 22 ports en route to Tromsø. The four-day sea trip was packed with lectures, presentations and discussions while the cruiser floated along the beautiful Norwegian fjords and travelled up to the Arctic Circle.


The focus of the conference was the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation, execution and the role of selective types of autophagy in health and disease.


Per O. Seglen from the Institute for Cancer Research in Oslo started the meeting with what he called an “autophagobiography.” He presented a comprehensive history of the field starting from its early days when morphological observations were the main mode of examination, through the biochemical era, and up to the present day of autophagy research.


Beth Levine from the University of Texas in Dallas, United States, talked about how a recep- tor tyrosine kinase, commonly mutated in human cancer, directly regulates the core autophagy machinery, which may contribute to tumor progression and resistance to chemotherapy.


Felix Randow from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge focused on the role of autophagy in host-pathogen interactions. Although cells deploy autophagy as a protection to infection, cytosol-dwelling bacteria have learned to avoid elimination via this mechanism. Certain viruses even misappropriate autophagy for their own means to ensure efficient propagation.


Ivan Dikic from Goethe University of Medicine in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Frankfurt Institute for Molecular Life Sciences presented results of a phage display screen for modulators of autophagy, which identified novel inhibitors as well as sensors of autophagy.


“All our speakers are leaders in the field of autophagy. They gave great talks and shared a lot of unpublished data,” concluded Anne Simonsen. “Also, the ship was a great venue. As there was no WiFi in the cabins, people would mostly stay in the common areas and socialize.”