ImmuneFish 2017…

…by Chiara / from Austria / PhD Neuroscience 2016-2019

This week, the first ever ImmuneFish meeting titled “Immune response, repair and regeneration – fishing for signals” took place right here in Edinburgh (the programme can be found here). The idea to have this meeting had come up after the realisation that researchers have been looking into zebrafish repair in many different organs for some time now – and recently, there has been an increasing awareness (not only in the zebrafish community) that the immune system and inflammation can have reparative, protective and regenerative properties in various tissues and organs.

Naturally, I was delighted when I heard about this 1.5 day meeting/workshop a couple of months ago, since the topic of this meeting exactly overlaps with my research interests, and fits very well into my PhD project. Nervosity quickly mingled with this delight when my abstract was selected for a 40 minute talk. This talk was the first time I would ever be giving a talk at a conference apart from Centre Progress Reports within my Institute. Additionally, I was the only student selected for a talk and, as I already mentioned, the slot was 40 minutes long. Phew.

After a lot of figure making and preparation with a lot of support and feedback from my supervisor and lab, luckily all went well. (I hope) I managed to get through my presentation relatively well. I had a decent amount of interest in my research and received positive feedback as well as constructive questions in the discussion following my presentation. This all obviously made me very happy.

Apart from the slightly nerve-wrecking experience of presenting, I enjoyed the meeting/workshop a lot. The topics of the talks were spread across a variety of subjects: repair of the central nervous system (obviously my favourite topic), immune system and cancer, understanding the immune system through OMICS techniques (mainly transcriptomics), immune regulation of wound repair and the role of the immune system in cardiac and muscle regeneration. The research presented by the speakers was fascinating and followed up by constructive discussions after each talk. Over coffee & lunch, which were provided, an extensive exchange of ideas and techniques occured.

Despite the diversity of subjects and organs studied, we observed that virtually in any organ and tissue, the immune system plays a beneficial role in repair and recovery from injuries, and deficiencies in immune cells can have detrimental effects on the outcome.

On the other hand, cancer researchers provided us with evidence that immune cells appear to have a primarily nurturing role towards cancer cells instead of killing them. The nurturing phenotype can be changed by priming immune cells with inflammatory stimuli, which pushes them more towards a cancer-killing phenotype.

The keynote lecture was given by Prof. Stuart Forbes, a liver macrophage researcher slightly closer to the clinical application than the average zebrafish person. He gave us a truly fascinating insight into his work and the multitude of clinical trials he has initiated with reprogramming of autologous macrophages (monocytes taken from the patient, programmed in vitro in a certain way, reinfused in the patient as macrophages to help with certain problems such as liver failure or paracetamol poisoning). The inner heart of a molecular medicine alumna was quickly won over by this talk, so I was happy Prof. Forbes chose to share his insights with us.


The delegate’s dinner was held at the Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston, which is reputedly the oldest pub/licensing premises in Edinburgh (if not Scotland), selling liquor and victuals from this spot since 1360. Today, they offer a mouthwatering food menu, which left us all very happy.

This meeting and workshop was co-funded by EuFishBioMed and I really hope it’s going to happen again in the upcoming years, as I found it a very stimulating environment and had many new ideas throughout the meeting. Thanks to the organisers for allowing me to speak 🙂

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