Some of the world’s foremost researchers investigating the mechanisms by which cells communicate with one another, convened in Doha at a conference hosted by Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q).
A total of 18 international experts in the field of cell signalling gave presentations, explaining the very latest advances in what is a highly dynamic and complex research area.
Cell signalling refers to a wide range of communication processes occurring at the cellular level, which govern many activities of cells, making life possible. Cell signalling co-ordinates essential cell processes like tissue repair, growth and immune response; errors in these processes are involved in many serious illnesses, including diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr Khaled Machaca, associate dean for research and professor of physiology and biophysics at WCM-Q, specialises in the study of the role of calcium in cell signalling.
Dr Machaca said, “Understanding the molecular mechanisms governing cellular signalling, including calcium signalling, is essential to develop novel therapies to treat diseases. Ultimately the regulation of homeostasis happens in large part at the cellular and molecular level, so such an understanding is important to tackle complex diseases and identify more effective therapies.”
The two-day conference on ‘Signalling at Membrane Contact Sites’ brought expert speakers to Doha from all over the world, including Prof Ole Petersen, CBE, professor of physiology at Cardiff University, Wales, UK; Dr Andreas Guse, director of biochemistry and molecular cell biology at University Medical Centre, Hamburg-Eppendorf; Dr Raphael Courjaret, assistant professor of research in physiology and biophysics at WCM-Q; and Dr Richard Lewis, professor in the department of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University School of Medicine.
The lab of one of the speakers Dr Stefan Feske, associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine, investigates the role of ion channels in controlling immune response, with the ultimate goal of identifying drug targets for immunotherapy.
Dr Feske said, “If you can identify modulators of ion channels that control immune cells that are involved in inflammatory response, it may be possible to manipulate these channels or their modulators to suppress inflammation and treat diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or asthma. The big challenge, as with all drugs, is to find drug targets and therapies that specifically inhibiting inflammation without causing detrimental side-effects, for instance by suppressing desirable immune responses to infections or tumours.”
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