This year’s Mechanobiology Conference, hosted by the MBI, Singapore, focused on the Mechanobiology of Multicellular Systems. Around 370 participants and 40 speakers from around the world gathered at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House, NUS for the three day meeting.
Prof Michael Sheetz, Director of the MBI, began the proceedings with a keynote address on cellular mechanosensing at multiple levels. This set the theme for the first of six sessions, commencing with insightful talks on Cell Mechanosensitivity and Integrin Adhesion. Topics ranged from cell-matrix adhesion-dependent assembly of the actin cytoskeleton from the MBI’s Prof Sasha Bershadsky to the mechanical regulation of integrin adhesion dynamics from Prof Benjamin Geiger of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.
Session two shifted focus to Host-Microbe Interactions and Bacterial Collective Cell Behaviour, opened by keynote speaker and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Prof Sankar Adhya, currently of the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, USA. Prof Adhya illuminated the audience with findings on the potential 3D structure of the E.coli chromosome and its effect on transcription. This session featured talks from Dr Michael Way of the London Research Institute, UK on exploiting Vaccinia virus to better understand cytoskeletal dynamics, as well as Singapore’s Prof Yehuda Cohen of Nanyang Technological University on the biofilm life cycle.
Day two delved further into the field of cell adhesion, with the keynote address by Prof Timothy Springer of Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA, tackling the regulation of integrin affinity via structural analyses. Structural biology continued to lead the way from integrins through to cadherins, with work by Dr Lawrence Shapiro of Columbia University, New York, USA on the structural biology of cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion. The session closed with Prof Masatoshi Takeichi, Director of RIKEN, Japan, who first discovered cadherin molecules more than thirty years ago, presenting his current work on the polarized contractility of adherens junctions in neural tube closure.
The morning’s discussions on Mechanisms of Cadherin Adhesion led into an afternoon of Cytoskeleton, Signaling and Cell-Cell Junctions. Prof Alan Hall of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA delivered the keynote address on the role of Rho GTPases in cell migration and morphogenesis – a field explored further by speakers including Dr Alpha Yap of the University of Queensland, Australia and Dr Vania Braga of Imperial College London, UK.
Sessions 5 and 6
Cell migration dominated day three, which opened with Cell Force Response and Collective Cell Movements. Talks included insights into the role of leader cells from Prof Pascal Silberzan of the Institut Curie, Paris, France and mapping collective migration from the MBIs own Prof Chwee Teck Lim.
The conference concluded with a look at the Mechanobiology of Development and Tissue Morphogenesis. Flies and fish were the order of the day, with Prof Thomas Lecuit of the Developmental Biology Institute of Marseilles–Luminy, France addressing the subcellular mechanics of tissue morphogenesis in Drosophila embryos and Prof Carl-Philipp Heisenberg of the Institute of Science and Technology, Austria speaking on the mechanical forces driving zebrafish epiboly.
New technology and poster sessions
Technological advances also featured during the conference, such as novel work by Prof Virginia Cornish of Columbia University, New York, USA on TMP-tags and Dr Philipp Keller of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Vancouver, USA on light sheet-based fluorescence microscopy. Interspersed between these and many other enlightening talks, were equally informative poster sessions. Students and post docs presented a total of 75 posters covering mechanobiology in contexts as diverse as matrix-driven cardiomyocyte differentiation to force sensing by von Willebrand factor.
Looking forward to 2012
Over the course of poster sessions, tea breaks and lunches, scientists hailing from 15 countries worldwide were able to discuss, debate and discover the emerging field of mechanobiology. Following the success of this year’s conference, the 6th Mechanobiology Conference is set to be held in November 2012 and will highlight yet another years worth of advancements in the field of mechanobiology.