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  • Andrew Durham

ERS/BALR pulmonary epithelium seminar

The Berlin wall: A metaphor for epithelial wall function?

Thanks to the BALR travel award, I (and 4 other award winners) was lucky enough to attend the ERS and the BALR held a joint seminar on 'New developments in in vitro models of the pulmonary epithelium'. The seminar was organised by Colin Bingle and Terry Tetley and spread over 3 days, starting Thursday afternoon and continuing to Saturday morning, and held in the German capital of Berlin.

Airway epithelial cells play many important roles in the body: forming the alveoli and allowing gas exchange, barrier function, carrying out mucocilliary clearance and acting as part of the immune system. Therefore, it is important that we develop and use accurate models and techniques to understand the epithelia, which the seminar aimed to address.

The seminar had 14 talks discussing novel culture methods for epithelial cells (Robert Hynds), better models for understanding development (Saverio Bellusci) and differentiation (Jason Rock, Maria Steinke, David Fecher), barrier function (Andrew Thorley). The seminar also covered using these models to investigate new methods of imaging cells (Mattias Svensson), measuring cellular responses (Donna Davies, Remi Villenave, David Griffiths, Ultan Power) and potential of treatments and methods, such as CISPR-Cas9 (Jeffrey Beekman).

One of the principle aims of the seminar was to encourage discussion amongst the delegates. This was achieved through the poster session, which generated a lot of interest and discussion amongst delegates, and by the organisation of discussion groups within the conference, enabling researchers at all levels to get involved, and not just disseminate their research but also to ask questions about methodology and how best to drive their research forward. As the seminar bought together researchers from across Europe with similar research interests it provided a great opportunity to meet other researchers, discuss research, ferment ideas and and help establish new collaborations both at the Seminar and in the pub in the evening.

Thanks to the BALR for sponsoring my attendance at the seminar and to Terry and Colin for their excellent organisation. Colin has set himself a high standard which I am sure he will match at the BALR summer meeting in Sheffield this July!

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