The Meeting Begins

The Scientific Workshop has opened, diving immediately into a session of five presentations on various aspects of cavernous angioma signalling and molecular biology.  I’m looking at a room that is now filled nearly to capacity with 40 scientists representing more than 20 different laboratories.  The countries represented include the US, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Israel, Brazil, and Canada. Likely because of our European venue, we have an explosion of European researchers compared to previous years – half of the researchers in attendance are from EU countries that have three or more labs doing this work (France, Italy, Germany).

Amy Akers' final preparations

The first presentation was given by Dr. Yuan Zhu of the University of Euisberg-Essen in Germany on the topic of  ”Inactivation of Dll4-Notch signaling in CCM3 gene mutated familial CCM and in CCM3-silenced endothelial cells”. This is Dr. Zhu’s second year presenting at our conference. Her presentation received several challenging questions during discussion time that are certain to strengthen the work she is doing. These critiques are welcomed, particularly since the work being presented by each researcher is still very much in process.

Michelle Kean

Next, Michelle Kean of the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto, Canada presented on “Structure-function analysis of the STRIPAK complex identifies direct interactions between CCM3/PDCD10 and other STRIPAK members and reveals a role for STRIPAK in Golgi polarization.”  This presentation brought another dimension to understanding of CCM3 molecular biology.

Barbara Costa of the Weizman Institute in Israel presented work that her lab has done in collaboration with Michelle Kean’s lab – a collaboration that was born at a previous Angioma Alliance Scientific Workshop. Her topic “A GCKIII kinase mediates CCM2-dependent death in medulloblastoma cells” should not be understood as having to do with medulloblastoma cancer.  CCM2 does not cause medulloblastoma cancer. Rather, she is using this system to better understand the function of CCM2.

Ian Stuart and Krystle Kontoh

During the break, Ian Stuart of Cavernoma Alliance UK and Krystle Kontoh  of Genetic Alliance UK arrived. Their exhibit helps to underscore what an international effort this has become. It also illustrates ways in which patients and researchers are working together in many countries.

Juan Zalvide from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain presented “CCM3-dependent redistribution of Mst4 upon oxidative stress is essential for phosphorylation of Ezrin/Radixin/Moesin and protects cells from necrosis.” This work examines the role of CCM3 in a cell’s response to oxidative stress.

The day’s final presentation was “Identification of a novel KRIT1 interactor involved in the control of actin cytoskeleton dynamics and cell resistance to oxidative stress.” This talk had two presenters – Francesco Retta from the University of Torino and Lorenza Trabelzini of the University of Siena. These two individuals represent two labs of a growing network that, along with patients, are creating an Angioma Alliance type organization in Italy.  This organization is mentioned in the Spring 2011 Angioma Alliance newsletter and has continued to expand since that article.

The day is ending with an extended discussion period and a dinner for the scientists. It has already been a great day. I have been watching smiles and hugs as scientists who see each other only at our meeting greet, listening to pointed discussions that will refine already quality work, and hearing sounds of surprise when novel, unexpected results are presented. Even without a degree in molecular biology, I can understand the body language being spoken here – the scientific workshop is off to a fine start.


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