Neuromuscular Junction Research Conference Report

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Nov 2021: Our students hosted a virtual conference last month, bringing together early-career scientists around the world who work on the neuromuscular junction.

To find cures for diseases like MND, it is crucial for scientists to share and discuss their research with other experts in their field at meetings such as conferences. These conferences provide students and established researchers alike a venue to hear new research, methodologies to study treatments and discuss ideas about their work. This can spark collaborations between laboratories, strengthen the rationale and interpretation of scientists’ work, and fuel discoveries of new disease mechanisms and therapies.

The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have led scientists to explore platforms such as virtual conferences. While face-to-face interaction is preferred, virtual conferences can be more accessible for attendees, especially students, due to their convenience and in particular lower cost.

Dr. Ines Boehm, Dr. Abrar Alhindi, and Abdullah Ramadan, current and former PhD students at the University of Edinburgh, along with Lauren Fish, a PhD student at Brown University, took this opportunity to bring early-career scientists (i.e. graduate students and postdoctoral researchers) together for a free international meeting focused on the neuromuscular junction. The neuromuscular junction is the connection between nerves and muscles. It's responsible for facilitating movement, which is often affected in MND.

Our early-career researchers organised the inaugural Neuromuscular Junction Research Conference virtually from 5th-7th October 2021. It attracted 132 attendees from around the world, including 6 keynote speakers and 18 graduate student and postdoctoral speakers from across 14 countries. Topics included molecular interactions at the synapse, physiology, diseases affecting the synapse, development and ageing, and methods for studying the neuromuscular junction. Most of the work presented was focused on understanding how neuromuscular synapses work in health and disease.

This free and virtual conference was well received and presented a unique opportunity for researchers working on the neuromuscular junction to connect and update one another about the current state of research. This will hopefully indirectly benefit the patient community in the long run through newly gained collaborations and the exchange of knowledge amongst researchers.

The recipients of audience choice and committee’s choice awards for best talk were Francisca Bermedo-García and Diego Zelada, respectively, both of the Henríquez lab at the University of Concepción, Chile. Awards were sponsored by The Euan MacDonald Centre.

For more information on the programme, see the Event page: Neuromuscular Junction Research Conference 2021.

This article was published on: Thursday, November 25, 2021