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Successful international conference at the University

During a three-day conference in August, over 200 scientists from all over the world met at the 17th meeting of the European Macrophage and Dendritic Cell Society, organised by Professor Ziegler-Heitbrock, Chair of Immunology at this University. 

The meeting, from August 28-30, took place at the University's pleasant conference site in Oadby.

Scientists came from Europe, India, Japan, Korea, Australia, Singapore, Iran and the US. They presented and discussed new discoveries on macrophages and dendritic cells. These cells of the immune system are found in our blood. They are also present in all of our organs including the lung. Therefore they are at the forefront of defence against microbes, which try to invade our body every day.

One of the hot topics at the conference was the toll-like receptors, which are expressed on the surface of macrophages (cells that can eat and destroy microbes). These receptors are used to sense bacteria and this is then followed by a brisk response leading to the destruction of the bacteria. 

Professor Akira from Osaka, Japan, presented exciting new data on how the toll-like receptors lead to activation of macrophages. The discovery of these recognition molecules has already led to new diagnostic tests and to new therapies. Also, new discoveries on the role of macrophages in inflammatory lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, were discussed at the conference.

Another central topic was the conversion of macrophages into dendritic cells. Dendritic cells are potent in causing activation of many other immune defence cells and they are currently tested in new tumor therapies and in the treatment of allergies like asthma. This includes drugs that specifically activate dendritic cells via toll-like receptors.

Finally, there were several contributions on the CD16+ monocytes, a population of cells discovered in the lab of Professor Ziegler-Heitbrock. It was shown by Dr Ancuta from Boston, USA, that the CD16+ monocytes are selectively attracted and activated by the chemokine fractalkine. In this way these cells can migrate to specific sites of inflammation.

The intensive conference programme was lightened by two social events - a reception, at which the Lord Mayor welcomed guests, at the New Walk Museum, and a conference dinner at Leicester's National Space Centre. All participants stayed to the very end, which is unusual to happen at any conference! It gave the best indication that it was a successful event.

Angela Thomas
Department of Genetics

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Last updated: 7 October 2003 12:20
Created by: Barbara Whiteman

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