ECM 360° – a look at an upcoming FEBS Advanced Lecture Course
From what's exciting in the field right now to what's in store at the event – Nikos Karamanos, the course organizer, explains...
The FEBS Advanced Lecture Course 'Extracellular Matrix: Cell Regulation, Epigenetics and Modeling', will take place in Patras, Greece, 27 September – 2 October 2018. The course will focus on recent advances in the fields of matrix biology, biochemistry, structural biology, epigenetics and pharmacological targeting – to present PhD students and postdoctoral scientists, as well as academic and institute research fellows, with novel aspects of cell regulation, molecular modelling and pharmaceutical targeting. Here, an interview with the course organizer – Nikos Karamanos – introduces this research area and explains the main aims and rationale of the event organization. Check out the course website for more details and note the application deadline in May 2018.
Introducing the course organizer
Nikos Karamanos is a Professor of Biochemistry in the University of Patras, Greece. “I have extensive experience in the fields of biochemistry, biochemical analysis and matrix pathobiology as well as in organizing FEBS Advanced Lecture Courses since 2007. My research group's interests span extracellular matrix (ECM), matrix pathobiology, cell signaling, molecular targeting, pre-clinical evaluation of drugs at the cell level and cytotoxicity. Particular focus is given to structural and cell regulatory macromolecules such as proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, proteinases and epigenetic regulation, in tissue organization, development and progression of various disorders, such as cancer”.
Introducing the course: A Q&A with the course organizer
What are the key topics in matrix biology and why is it important?
Extracellular matrix is a highly dynamic structural network with functional multipotency. Matrix biology is a fast-growing field applying techniques such as rapid and sensitive structure analysis and cell imaging methods to understand the role of proteoglycans, matrix-degrading enzymes, cell–matrix interactions and signalling (e.g. elicited by interactions of cell surface receptors with matrix components and growth factors), stem cell biology and epigenetic control of matrix gene expression – in both health and disease, including the tumour microenvironment and other pathologies.
These matrix biology topics are of great importance to understand the maintenance of normal tissue homeostasis and disease initiation, and for informing the design of new pharmacological agents targeting serious diseases including, among others, cancer, angiogenesis, fibrosis, immunity and infectious diseases.
How did you get into matrix biology?
After getting my Diploma in Chemistry, I decided to expand my knowledge in molecular life sciences and therefore my PhD and postdoctoral research was focused in Biochemistry. The underlying mechanisms of how cells function and communicate always fascinated me and I realised that we could not understand the pathobiology of a disease without exploring the biology of extracellular matrix and the cell microenvironment. In the past decade matrix pathobiology emerged as a research area of significant importance in our endeavour to understand cell function and holds the potential to drive the design and development of novel pharmacological agents and tools for disease targeting.
What's exciting in the field right now?
The key roles of tumour cell-derived exosomes as vesicles for the delivery of their functional cargo as well as the matrix-mediated epigenetic modification of cancer cells hold great potential and could probably challenge our current views of biological systems and pharmacological design. Molecular modelling (also included in the upcoming course), autophagy and matrix interactome are emerging areas allowing a deeper understanding of biological function in the context of tumour microenvironment.
What led you to start this advanced course and how has the course evolved?
The general aim is to provide the latest research updates in extracellular matrix biology and a strong educational and training element for PhD students and postdocs. Seizing that goal, we have gained considerable experience in organizing six successful Advanced Lecture Courses in this research area in Greece over ten years.
The FEBS Advanced Lecture Course in the thematic area 'Matrix Pathobiology, Signaling and Molecular Targets' (MPST) was held for the first time in 2007, in Patras, Greece. Since then, the course has been organized every two years. The most important goal of the meeting is to bring together life scientists on an important and rapidly developing scientific field and to create the environment for superb science and warm collegiality, and thus an all-around rewarding experience.
One new initiative was the formation of a Young Scientist’s committee (YSC) to deals with general lectures/tutorials on the first day of the meeting, providing in this way the necessary knowledge for those entering the field of matrix pathobiology. With the support of the main organizing committee, the YSC (thanks to the very efficient young fellows involved and Zoi Piperigkou who will coordinate the committee this year) organizes general lectures by the tutors, panel discussions and career development session, as well as several events during the course, like the PubQuiz.
The event has become increasingly popular over the years, with the number of website visits for a course typically exceeding 20,000!
How do you design the scientific program?
The organizing committee try to put together an outstanding group of internationally recognized experts as invited speakers. We deeply support interdisciplinarity, as speakers are experts in different research areas in the field of matrix biology. They will address basic and applied science topics that appeal to a range of participants working in the fields of matrix biology, biochemistry, cell & molecular biology, modeling and design, glycobiology, structural biology, pharmacology, biotechnology and medicine. Another benefit is the networking component, which is important for young scientists.
Hundreds of young scientists have been trained during the previous FEBS MPST courses. The training aspect is of great importance for the organization of the course and it is achieved by general lectures/tutorials, plenary symposia with invited lectures and selected talks, poster sessions and flash presentations with ample time for informal discussions in speakers’ corners (meet the experts) between the invited speakers and young fellows.
What do you have planned for social events?
The social events are organized in such a way as to create a very friendly atmosphere for interactions between the participants as well as the young scientists with the outstanding experts. Apart from the lunches, coffee breaks and dinners, as well as a welcome reception and a farewell party for all participants, we plan several other optional social events like an excursion tour, visit to museums and archaeological sites. Soccer and dancing normally also feature too!
Thanks to Nikos Karamanos for answering these questions. For more information on this FEBS Course, visit the event website: https://extracellularmatrix.febsevents.org/