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Highlights from the British Society for Immunology Congress 2013

Highlights from the British Society for Immunology Congress 2013The Randox Research division recently exhibited at the British Society for Immunology Congress 2013, held from Monday 2nd to Thursday 5th of December.  The BSI Congress is the largest Immunology conference of the year and allows immunology researchers to unite and discuss the different developments that are affecting their field.

Various topics were discussed throughout the course of the conference with a few of the highlights being:

Tribute to Brigitte ‘Ita’ Askonas

This year’s Keynote speaker was Professor Anne O’Garra. Professor O’Garra opened her keynote speech with a heartfelt tribute to Brigitte ‘Ita’ Askonas who passed away on the 9th January 2013 aged 89. Brigitte spent the majority of her career in the National Institute for Medical Research, NIMR, serving 36 years. The last 12 years were spent as head of the immunology division. Her career was lengthy and diverse; with a key highlight being the first person to clone memory B cells and study macrophages which led to her election to the ‘Fellowship of the Royal Society’ in 1973.

Ita mentored many immunologists throughout her time, with many of the most successful immunologist beginning their careers as her Phd or postdoctoral students; as well as influencing several laureates including 1987 noble prize winner Susumu Tonegawa. It was this mentorship and influence that has her endearingly known as the mother figure of Immunology, (1996 noble prize winner in medicine Peter Doherty).

The Immune Response in Tuberculosis from mouse models to human disease

Anne O’Garra, Head of the Division of Immunoregulation at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) London, has identified transcriptional biomarkers with potential for diagnosis and prognosis of Tuberculosis (TB).

TB kills 1.4 million people a year.  It is estimated that one third of the world’s population has latent TB with about 10-20% of these cases progressing to active TB.  The diagnosis of the infecting pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is difficult to ascertain, as its culture takes weeks to grow and although the smear bacilli are positive in sputum it is not always available. Currently there are no biomarkers for latent TB thus there is currently no way to predict which cases will progress to active TB.

The lack of biomarkers presents a difficulty for effective anti-tuberculosis treatment monitoring which leads to inadequate treatment, a compromised medical condition and increased drug resistance.

Recent research has highlighted the importance of Type I Interferon signalling in the immune response which contributes to the pathogenesis of TB.  Human blood transcriptional signatures were compared for latent and active tuberculosis.  Studies were carried out independently in London and South Africa and the transcriptional signatures showed significant changes which were detected in blood measurements just 2 weeks after the start of treatment.

The Research indicated that there is potentialto improve for monitoring of TB treatment and testing of new drugs.  This TB signature is dominated by a Neutrophil driven Interferon (IFN)-inducible gene profile.  Studies have shown the role of Type I Interferon signalling in the pathogenesis of TB.  Increasing levels of Type I IFN during M.tuberculosis infection exacerbates the disease.  The role Type I IFNs play as they dominate the TB signature may indicate the process leading to susceptibility of the disease.  In turn this offers transcriptional biomarkers with potential for the diagnosis and prognosis of Tuberculosis.

The Pathogenesis of Severe Influenza

Speaking on behalf of the Mechanism of Severe Acute Influenza Consortium (MOSAIC) Peter Openshaw, Imperial College London, described the centres work, in conjunction with Liverpool NHS Trust’s, that was carried out amid the UK’s 2009 -2010 ‘H1N1’ pandemic.

The MOSAIC investigation analysed 8,000 samples archived in the bio-bank and has been described as probably the world’s most comprehensive study of severe influenza. The study collected samples from hospitalised patients during the 2009/10 outbreak and focused on immunopathogenesis. Samples were assed for viral factors that contribute to the severity of the disease and why people with underlying health problems – as well as some previously healthy people – sometimes develop severe disease, offering clinician’s insight into who may be at risk from the potentially fatal infection.

As well as having a thoroughly enjoyable time, we have learnt more about the inner workings of the immune response. If you would like to learn more about how the Randox Research division can aid your research studies, download our Immunology Research Brochure or visit:

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