[BBB/Sciences] 19th International Symposium on Signal Transduction at the Blood-Brain Barriers

Today marks the third and last day of the 16th International Symposium on Signal Transduction at the Blood-Brain Barriers held this year in Copenhagen, Denmark.
This is typically a conference that is considered as a European Blood-Brain Barrier because it takes place usually in a EU country and has mostly a European audience. Still it attracts few speakers, poster presenters and attendees from the US and from other places. We were few US scientists attending this conferences and also few Japanese scientists.
The Euro-centric did not remove anything to the science presented and the attendance. We estimate about 150 people attended this conference and the scientific programming, the venue and the dinner event was fanatastic.
On the first day (Wednesday), we had some local stars such as Maiken Nedergaard and Kjeld Mollgard (University of Copenhagen) discussing about her latest research in glymphatic system and ABC transporters respectivelly. Furthermore, Joan Abbott (Kings College London, London, UK) provided a very nice and exciting keynote on some evolutionary trait on the brain barriers, discussing about the presence of a glial-based brain barrier and its subsequent evolution into a endothelial-based brain barrier and suggested that it may not be a single evolutionary event but may have happened several times independently in different phylae.
The venue of the first day in the Ceremony Hall at the University of Copenhagen was also giving this formal and colloquial atmosphere, as this room was nicely illlustrated with wall paintings highlighting different periods of Denmark history and the inclusion of the University in such history (the passage of the battalion of 200 students that stood up to Swedish Army in the 18th century was very interesting).
The second and third day took place in the much modern Scandic Hotel located downtown, in one of their ballroom allowing to share the same room with the posters). A lot of very interesting talks were highlighting the conference with Margareta Hammarlund (Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden) discussing about the pros and cons of animal models for assessing brain pharmacokinetics and also the need to itemize the different compartments in the brain. Other noteworthy talks were from drug delivery standpoint where a couple of talks on receptor-mediated transcytosis and their impact in neurodegenerative diseases and drug delivery (Claus Piertrizk, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany), the migration of T cells in multiple sclerosis (Britta Engelhardt, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland), the protective role of microglial cells following stroke injury (Zena Vexler, UCSF, San Francisco, USA) or cell-cell interactions between brain metastatic cells and the BBB (Imola Wilhelm, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Szeged, Hungary). Finally the last talk of the day was a keynote by Maria Deli (Hungarian Academy of Sciences) about the current limitations and advances of in vitro models and also the need of BBB expertise in the field of bioengineering. Maria rightly pointed the elegancy of the microfluidics systems for modelling a “BBB on a chip” but also noted that such models fall flat as they use BBB cells with poor barrier properties, far from “the in vivo representation” selling tags in many publications in the field. For me, it clearly emphasize the need of having more bioengineers to come attend BBB conferences as well as the need to have BBB speakers in Bioengineering conferences. Maybe this is something worth considering for the next international meeting.
The conference organizers also included a dinner at the “Skuespilhuset”, a restaurant and theatre located on the shore of Copenhagen, facing Christiana (the famous hippy-turned-hipster village). The food was fantastic and the wine eased the tongues for better social interactions and exchanging ideas.
The third day was as rich as the previous days, with a session on in vitro modelling of the BBB using stem cells with a keynote from Eric Shusta (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, USA), but also an interesting keynote by Ingolf Blassig (Leibnitz Institute, Berlin, Germany) that has done an exhaustive survey on the expression of claudins at the BBB and differences between rodents and human models.
Overall, it was a great conference well organized, short but dense enough to allow interactions, discussion and novel ideas of collaborations to stem.
Last but not at least, the classical photo group of the European (though incomplete) blood-brain barrier community in a nutshell. If you feel like to play “Where’s Waldo?” game, feel free 🙂

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