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Conference Recap: 29th International Complement Workshop 2023

Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

Date: Wednesday, August 30 - Tuesday, September 5.

In the heart of the picturesque and vibrant city of Newcastle upon Tyne, a place known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and thriving center for innovation and learning, the long-awaited 29th International Complement Workshop took place last week. For students and researchers in the field of immunology, this was a unique opportunity to dialogue, collaborate, and immerse themselves in the evolving world of complement research.

A focused learning experience: the Teaching Day.

On August 31, the conference kicked off with a teaching day specifically designed for trainee complementologists, providing a platform to deepen their understanding and knowledge of the field. Experienced scientists also had the opportunity to refresh their knowledge and gain new insights into diseases they had not previously dealt with. This session was a resource for students looking to expand their knowledge of binding mechanisms, complement-associated diseases, diagnostics, and therapeutics.

One of the key insights was the discussion of the persistent presence of polyanionic charges on cell surfaces that facilitate binding of complement inhibitor FH. For a comprehensive understanding, participants were advised to read the papers by Ricklin et al (2018, PMID 29199277) and Schmidt et al (2023, PMID 36398537).

A welcome platform for up-and-coming scientists: poster sessions.

The poster sessions were a hallmark of the event, providing an opportunity for young scientists to present their data in a family atmosphere. Always vibrant with enthusiasts and experts alike, these sessions provide an excellent platform for meaningful discussion and knowledge sharing. The welcoming environment encourages young scientists to engage in fruitful dialogue with experienced researchers, fostering collaboration and producing the next generation of complementologists.

This time we did not present, but next time many projects will be ready for discussion. Stay tuned.

Deep insights into research: scientific sessions.

The scientific sessions that followed offered a rich mix of basic and clinical research, as well as a segment on applied studies. Students and prospective researchers found the discussions on the canonical (the entire protein cascade is required) and non-canonical (only individual complement proteins have an effect) effects of the complement system extremely enriching. It was an eye-opener to see how complement proteins can influence tumor growth and potentially have tumor-specific effects, a promising area for future research.

Breakthrough findings and networking opportunities

These sessions focused on the role of complement factor FH in modulating the cytoskeleton of cells, including its effects on macrophages. Noncanonical functions of the complement system were observed to affect cell proliferation and migration, which was particularly evident in FH-deficient macrophages. This deficiency was associated with decreased phagocytic activity and decreased cellular C3 levels. These findings were are already published in two studies (PMID 35097132, PMID 37499656), which opened new avenues for more in-depth research in immunology.

Another important segment was the presentation of research opportunities in the world of DNA nanostructures that can activate the complement system, as presented by Leonie Abendstein and currently under review. Another focus was on MDA epitopes as potential complement triggers, demonstrating their ability to facilitate C1q and C4b binding, but without detecting C9, the pore initiator (presented by Papac-Milicevic N, unpublished).

Conclusion: a melting pot of minds and possibilities.

The 29th International Complement Workshop served as fruitful ground for learning and networking. Interactions with scientists in the field not only stimulated potential collaborations, but also significantly advanced the progress of different projects.

Students looking to make a name for themselves in the field of immunology should consider this conference as a window into the latest developments and a unique opportunity to connect with experienced researchers and industry experts. Stay tuned for the next edition of this lively and innovative meeting!

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