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Experiences of BTS Winter 2018: Helena Crisford

Helena Crisford is a second-year PhD Student at the University of Birmingham, and a BALR Travel Award winner for the BTS Winter Meeting 2018. She gave an oral presentation her abstract "S15: Proteinase 3 Activity in PiSZ Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency and Non-deficient Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease" on Wednesday 5th December 2018 in the session "COPD: Inflammation and iImunity" and she has kindly shared her experience of the BTS with us.

"On Wednesday December 5th I had the pleasure of attending the British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting at the QEII Centre in London, with support from the BALR. The meeting was packed with interesting presentations, posters and discussions from across a range of lung disease research.

The first session I attended was the BTS Journal Club for COPD which looked at recent publications and discussed their merits, shortcomings and implications. It was hosted by Dr Elizabeth Sapey, Reader at University of Birmingham and Respiratory Consultant at University Hospitals Birmingham, who focused upon research into treatments that aimed to improve neutrophilic function. Dr Sapey emphasised that studies are largely effected by patient variability (both intra- and inter-), that poor selection of patients results in varying degrees of efficacy, and that the use of different target outcomes can change whether a study is viewed as being successful. She reminded us that therapeutics should aim to normalise, not wipe out, dysfunctional mechanisms and pointed out that feedback loops and pathway redundancies need to be taken into consideration in future research.

I then attended the COPD: inflammation and immunity spoken session. It was here that I was able to present my own abstract which was an excellent opportunity to share my research, contribute towards the discussion and meet other scientists. There were 4 other brilliant abstract presentations discussing: how human rhinovirus can impair the macrophage response to bacterial challenge (Dr Lydia Finney, Imperial College London), how extracellular-vesicle packaged miRNAs can alter interactions between alveolar macrophages and the airway epithelium (Hannah Burke, University of Southampton), the use of flow cytometry to assess activation of eosinophils in airways disease (Dr Jennifer Cane, University of Oxford) and finally determining the adaptive immune response of patients with COPD patients to the seasonal trivalent influenza vaccination (Dr Karl Staples, University of Southampton).

Following a quick coffee break, I moved on to attend the second half of the BALR/BTS symposium “A Game of ‘Omes”. This was a really fascinating session and really opened my eyes to alternate technologies and their potential uses within respiratory research. First to speak was Professor Luis Mur, from Aberystwyth University, who discussed the high throughput nature of metabolomics and its potential to create respiratory disease profiles/maps. This was followed by Professor Debby Bogaert, from the University of Edinburgh, who discussed the lifetime implications of the microbiome from birth and her research into respiratory outcomes. Finally we heard from Professor Paolo Vineis from the Imperial College London. Professor Vineis discussed the multifactorial nature of lung disease and current work into life-long exposures – “the exposome”.

I then had a period of time where I was able to look at some of the excellent posters being displayed.

Over the day I had some invaluable experiences and the conference has offered me exciting opportunities to develop and discuss my research. I am immensely grateful for the support of the BALR which allowed me to present my research to a large, national audience."

Follow Helena on Twitter (@HelenaCrisford) for more updates!

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