Stromal Immunology Group: Inaugural Meeting
Centre for Immunology and Infection
University of York
15th March 2012
Organisers: Matt Lakins, Benjamin Owens and Patty Sachamitr
Meeting Report: Amy Sawtell
Thursday 15th March 2012 marked the Stromal Immunology Group’s inaugural meeting. This meeting was the culmination of a year and a half of hard work by Matt Lakins and Ben Owens to get the Stromal Immunology Group off the ground and the inaugural meeting going. The meeting involved talks by researchers, from professors to PhD students, at the forefront of stroma research and emphasised how exciting the field is currently and how fast it is growing.
All photos credit to Deborah Grainger (@DebGrainger)
The meeting kicked off with a talk by Chris Buckley (University of Birmingham) who is one of the great spokesman for the importance of stroma. Professor Buckley gave an inspirational talk on the role of stromal cells in the persistence of inflammation, in particular focusing on fibroblasts which provide the ‘area code’ for the immune system. According to Professor Buckley, ‘the future is not orange, the future is fibroblasts!’
The following talk covered the role of Fibroblast Activation Protein Alpha expressing stromal cells in mediating immune-suppression in tumours (James Jones, University of Cambridge). Clive McKimmie (University of Glasgow) then discussed the role of chemokine receptor D6 with lymphatic endothelial cells in compartmentalising inflammatory chemokines and controlling dendritic cell adhesion to lymphatic endothelial cells. Rounding off the first session, Rosie Doble (University of Leeds) spoke on dermal fibroblasts’ production of IL-18 binding protein in response to IL-27, a novel treatment strategy for chronic inflammatory skin diseases.
After a delicious lunch and a turn on the ‘wheel of fortune’ at one of the sponsors’ stands, Dr Mark Coles (University of York) took us through the ‘Yin and Yang’ of normal and pathological stromal development and function. Stromal cells can aid immune responses to infection in the lymph node, yet at the sight of a tumour they can aid tumour cell migration. Susan Aungier (The Roslin Institute) then took us through her project on identifying microRNAs and their target genes associated with follicular dendritic cell development. Jenny Cowen (University of Birmingham) presented the role of thymic epithelial cells on CD4+ T cell development; they aren’t essential for maturation, extra-thymic signals are in fact capable of maturing CD4+ T cells too, however thymic epithelial cells are essential for T regulatory cell development. Mattias Svensson (Karolinska Institute) finished off the session by educating us on how key 3-D cell culture is. Professor Svensson’s group develops human 3-D model systems, one of which is a model of lung tissue, which has been used to study how the tissue microenvironment regulates dendritic cell function.
A coffee break and a bag full of penguin stress balls later the final session began. Priyanka Narang (University of York, now Imperial College London) expressed the importance of lymphoid tissue inducer cells on the maintenance and function of marginal reticular cells; the stromal cells that make up the marginal zone of the lymph node. This interaction is not only important for lymph node development but also for immune response generation. Saba Nayar (University of Birmingham) presented her work on ectopic lymphogenesis and the signals involved in the acquisition of gp38 expression on stroma and thus subsequent acquisition of lymphoid, fibroblastic reticular cell, functions. The importance for cooperation of both innate and adaptive cells in driving this process was highlighted. Anne Fletcher (Harvard University) presented a large body of research characterising lymph node stromal cell subsets, aimed at shedding light on their biology. Investigation of the poorly studied gp38- CD31- double negative population revealed unique expression of integrin alpha 7, and identified them as pericytes in the cortex and medulla.
Reina Mebius (VUMC University, Amsterdam) rounded off the stroma-tastic day. Professor Mebius presented work showing that stromal cells are derived from a common precursor of mesenchymal origin. Also highlighted was the key role that stroma plays in inflammation and infection in both immune response induction and regulation.
After a fantastic day of talks everyone headed to the pub sporting a fetching “I (heart) Stroma” badge. The wide range of real ales on offer in York were sampled and there was much discussion over the exciting future of stromal research. Congratulations to the organisers Matt, Ben and also Patty Sachamitr, the group’s treasurer. I look forward to the Stromal Immunology Group meeting in 2013!
Take home message: It’s all about the stroma! Go and spread the word!
Report by: Amy Sawtell, Centre for Immunology and Infection, Hull York Medical School & Department of Biology, University of York, UK