Starting in 2007, the NCMLS institute has organised a yearly international 'New Frontiers' symposium. The theme of each symposium differs by covering a specific topic within one of thematic areas of NCMLS. This year's symposium, entitled, Nobel Channels, was held on the 14th and 15th of November 2011 and attracted visitors to the institute from across three continents. In total about 300 people attended both days of the symposium.
The topic was centred around ion channels and their importance in biology and medicine. In the highly regulated environment of a cell, 'ion channels' function as specialized 'gateways' that allow only precise molecules to enter or leave the cell. Ion channels function as a sort of biological passport control. How does an ion channel know whether it is the precise molecule? Well there are many diverse ion channels in the human body each responding to a variety of 'keys' i.e. molecular signals that open or close the 'gateway'. Ion channels allow us to live. Everything from walking and talking to thinking. When ion channels or their signaling mechanisms go awry, disease results.
Research on the structure and function of ion channels has important implications for patho-physiology, drug discovery, and translational research. The goal of the symposium was to bring together molecular- and clinical-oriented "life sciences" experts from The Netherlands and abroad who are working in the field of "ion channels". This symposium highlighted the latest developments in various diseases such as diabetes, epilepsy, kidney diseases, neuro-degeneration, immunity, migraine, pain, and hypertension.
The symposium was officially opened by Frans Corstens, Dean/Vice-chairman of the RUNMC and René Bindels, Scientific Director who welcomed the speakers, guests of honour and registrants.
The first speaker of session 1 'Tasty' Channels was Frances Ashcroft, University of Oxford. Her lecture focussed on ATP-sensitive potassium channels and neonatal diabetes. Frank Zufall, University of Saarland School of Medicine, gave a lecture on sodium channels in pain and olfaction followed by Joost Hoenderop, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, on the molecular regulation of TRPV5 and its functional consequences for the maintenance of the body Ca2+ balance.
The second session 'Sexy' Channels included talks from Craig Montell, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine on a therapeutic concept for a childhood neurodegenerative disease and was followed by Reinhold Penner, The Queen's Medical Center & University of Hawaii who discussed the development of novel cancer drugs derived from coral reefs! David Clapham, HHMI, Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, rounded the morning's lectures off with a 'sexy' talk on the role of sperm ion channels in fertilisation.
Session 3 - 'Cool' Channels - was opened by Ardem Patapoutain, ICND, who discussed a novel class of ion channels, the Piezo family, thought to be involved in mechanotransduction. Bernd Nilius, KU Leuven, winner of this year's Bloemendal Medal, gave an inspiring lecture on TRP channels in health and disease. Eric Honore, CNRS/University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, follwed with his talk on the role of polycystins in mechanotransductionpathways.
The keynote lecture was given by Erwin Neher, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, on the biophysics of neurotransmitter release.
The first day closed with a great party at Wijnfort Lent with a live jazz band.
The first session of the second day continued with more 'Cool' Channels. Speakers included Jochen Reiser (biology of TRPC6 and novel drugs for glomerular kidney disease), Peter Deen (mechanism underlying cNDI and the translation of this knowledge towards therapy development) and William Guggino (targeting and functioning of CFTR ion channel).
The 4th session 'Sick' Channels was opened by Michel D. Ferrari, Leiden University Medical Centre, with an awe inspiring talk on the involement of ion channels in migraine. he was followed by Michael Welsh, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, with new insights into Cystic Fibrosisusing an innovative pig model system. Thomas J. Jentsch, Leibinz-Institut für Molekulare Pharma-kologie (FMP) and Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin, presented his latest data on CLC channels. The session was finished with two structural talks. Firstly, Geerten Vuister, University of Leicester, on the Regulation of the sodium-calcium exchanger. A structural-, biophysical- and bioinformatics approach. Secondly, William A. Catterall, University of Washington, on his work on elucidating the atomic structure of voltage-gated sodium channels.
This year we had a poster session during the 2 days of the Symposium. An excellent jury, has awarded three best poster prizes. They received a certificate and an amount of money.
Next year our sixth 'New Frontiers' symposium will be held on the 3rd & 4th December 2012. This symposium will be about Genomics in health and disease - Towards personal genomics.