Scientific Sessions & Invited Speakers
Programme & Events
Session 1: Cell signalling across brain and gut
The gut-brain axis refers to the bidirectional communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. The dysregulation of the appetite-enhancing or satiety signals within the brain-gut axis is linked to metabolic imbalances leading to obesity as well as to psychological conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression. Recent years have witnessed the rise of the gut microbiota as a major player influencing normal physiology. Accumulating data, including studies using germ-free animals, has demonstrated the gut microbiota to communicate with the CNS--possibly through neural, endocrine and immune pathways--and thereby influences brain function and behaviour. The emerging concept of a microbiota-gut-brain axis suggests that modulation of the gut microbiota may be a tractable strategy for developing novel therapeutics for metabolic disorders such as obesity as well as complex CNS disorders including anxiety, mood, cognition and pain.
Session 2: Cell signalling in diseases of protein misfolding
Protein folding is the process whereby a newly synthesized protein molecule folds into its unique three dimensional structure. When this process fails, whether by environmental changes or genetic mutations, the protein misfolds. The accumulation of defective proteins leads to their aggregation and in order to prevent misfolding-induced toxicity, aberrant proteins are often destroyed. Not surprisingly, protein misfolding can lead to a repertoire of human diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and protein aggregation diseases (such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s). In order to reduce the misfolded-protein load, cells have evolved a conserved signalling response deemed the Unfolded Protein Response or UPR. In general, UPR signalling is an adaptive mechanism which aims to restore homeostasis and normal cell function. However, if prolonged, the UPR can activate apoptotic signalling pathways. Given the diverse signalling mechanisms involved and the implication in human disease, recent advances aim to better our understanding of the complexities of protein misfolding.
Session 3: Neurodegeneration
As people’s life expectancy is continuing to rise, the number of people suffering from age-related neurodegenerative processes such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease is also increasing incrementally (www.who.org). Thus, investigation into the cell signalling pathways contributing to the demise of neurons, which occurs in most cases years before the disorder is diagnosed, is vital for both humanitarian and economic purposes. Complex signalling pathways between neurons and their supporting cells, both microglia and astroglia, result in slow, progressive, degenerative damage. A variety of treatment strategies with the potential to alleviate these debilitating diseases exist and include the replacement of the lost neuronal cell population, reducing over-active neuroinflammation by glial cells, enhancing neuronal viability using growth factors, and creating a balance between overactive and underactive cell signalling pathways.
Session 4: Cell signalling in Cancer Research
The tumour microenvironment, which constitutes cancer cells, stromal fibroblasts, vascular cells and inflammatory mediators such as macrophages, has in the past number of years come to the fore as critical for the initial establishment of solid tumours, development to metastatic disease and for resistance to chemotherapy. The complex ecosystem that exists in the tumour microenvironment hinges on a myriad of cellular signals between genetically altered malignant cells and their neighbouring ‘normal’ cells, and dissection of these interactions and their importance for disease progression has become a key area of cancer research. Developing neoplasms can benefit from secreted growth factors, chemokines, metabolites from surrounding cells and reactive oxygen species, and can themselves induce angiogenesis through production of vascular epithelial growth factor (VEGF). Much research in recent years has examined intra- and intercellular signalling in the context of the tumour microenvironment, and has identified many new potential targets with which new therapies may be based.
Session 5: Career event/ Grant/PhD writing
Our career session is designed to inspire and inform students and professionals alike, on a variety of career routes taken by people in the field. This event will draw attention to the funding opportunities available within the scientific community at this present time in Ireland and further afield. This session of the day is an ideal opportunity to explore career destinations be it in industrial research, research organisations or academia. Moreover, we hope to provide insights on the art of scientific writing. From writing the PhD thesis to writing grants, technical writing is an imperative skill in all stages of a scientist’s career.
Professor Timothy Dinan, University College Cork
Professor Catherine Stanton, Teagasc, Moorepark
Professor Marina Lynch, Trinity College Dublin
Professor David Ron, University of Cambridge
Prof. Antoine Karnoub, Harvard Medical School
Prizes for Best Talks and Best Posters
Research in Industry
Short Biography of Invited Speakers
Prof. Timothy G. Dinan is Professor of Psychiatry and a Principal Investigator in the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at University College Cork. He was previously Chair of Clinical Neurosciences and Professor of Psychological Medicine at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Prior to that, he was a Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin. He has worked in research laboratories on both sides of the Atlantic and has a PhD in Pharmacology from the University of London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Psychiatrists and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. He has published over 200 papers and numerous books on the pharmacology and neurobiology of affective disorders. His primary research focus is on immune and endocrine aspects of depression and irritable bowel syndrome. A key area of research in Dr. Dinan’s laboratory focuses on unravelling how the microbiome-brain-gut axis contributes to the pathophysiology of complex disorders including anxiety and depression.
Prof. Catherine Stanton graduated from University College Cork with a B.Sc in Nutrition and Food Chemistry, a M.Sc in Nutrition and a Ph.D in Biochemistry from Bournemouth University, UK. She continued her research with Johnson & Johnson UK, and as postdoctoral fellow in Department of Medicine, University Medical Center, USA before joining Teagasc, Moorepark Food Centre, Fermoy, Ireland. Catherine is currently Principal Research Officer at Teagasc and a Principal Investigator in the APC’s Microbial Metabolites core and in the Food Health Ireland research centre. She has developed an excellent research programme on functional foods, with emphasis on the molecular analysis of food components and their impact on human nutrition and metabolic health. Moreover, her work focuses the nutritional modulation of gut microbiota and the influence of probiotics/prebiotics on variations in body weight, fat distribution, fatty acid composition, insulin sensitivity and lipid metabolism. She has published over 190 papers and was awarded D.Sc in 2009 from National University of Ireland in recognition of her published work.
Prof. David Ron is a Professor of Cellular Pathophysiology and Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. He received his medical degree from the Technion in Haifa, Israel in 1980. Subsequently he completed clinical training in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In 1992, he took a faculty position at New York University School of Medicine, establishing a research laboratory at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine. In 2009, he moved to the Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge where his lab now studies links between protein folding and metabolism.
Prof. Marina Lynch is Professor of Cellular Neuroscience in Trinity College Dublin. Her research interests lie within neuroinflammatory processes occurring in age-related disorders. Prof. Lynch has recently focused on interactions between neurons and microglia within the hippocampus, and on CD200 interactions in particular. She did her BSc. and MSc. in NUI Galway, and was awarded a PhD. in Physiology from Trinity College Dublin. Subsequently she moved to London, taking up Post-Doctoral positions in King’s College, London and in the National Institute for Medical Research, London. She was Honorary Lecturer in the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London, before returning to TCD as Lecturer and Professor in the Physiology Department. Prof. Lynch was elected Fellow of TCD in 1997, received the Royal Society of Medicine in Ireland Silver medal in 2006, and was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2009.
Prof. Antoine Karnoub is Assistant Professor of Pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School, Boston MA. Originally from Lebanon, he obtained his PhD in 2001 from the University of North Carolina in the laboratories of Sharon Campbell and Channing Der, where he studied the molecular mechanisms of Ras/Rho activation and signalling in cellular transformation. He remained as a postdoctoral fellow in Channing Der’s lab until 2003, when he moved to Boston to work in Robert Weinberg’s lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Here, his postdoctoral work examined mesenchymal stem cells and their role in tumour development. In 2008, Antoine joined the Department of Pathology at BIDMC, where his lab is interested in the recruitment of stromal components by cancer cells, and the interactions between these cells in the context of cancer metastasis.