Tuesday, February 7, 2012

VLC Seminar

Since I am unable to attend the CTS Seminar this week I decided to attend the Vermont Lung Center (VLC) Basic Science Seminar on Tuesday February 7, 2012 in HSRF 300 at 8:15 am.  Jos van der Velden, PhD presented “The role of c-Jun-N-Terminal Kinase in Epithelial plasticity

I decided to attend this particular conference because I know that the presenter’s lab focuses on cell signaling pathways related to the development of pulmonary fibrosis.  Pulmonary fibrosis is a devastating disease with no useful treatment available at this time.  There are a lot of new clinical research protocols using several different agents including agents using JNK1.  I thought this seminar would be help me gain a better understanding of how these agents act and how pulmonary fibrosis research goes from “bench to the bedside”.
He concluded that JNK1 ablation from lung epithelial cells almost completely protects against TGF-β1 or bleomycin-induced fibrosis and delayed JNK1 ablation prevents further enhancement of fibrosis. This demonstrates the crucial role for epithelial-based JNK1 activation in the development of the fibrogenic response, a part of EMT (epithelial mesenchymal transformation).  He then went on to dicuss the utility of micro RNA analysis to understand the specific signaling pathways involved in these responsed.  He found that JNK1 / Smad 3 regulates Let-7g miRNA expression and that Let-7 miRNA expression is down regulated in vivo following TGF-b1 expression.  This is very novel information and the data was quite convincing.  The future plans for his lab include determining whether lack of EMT in the absence of JNK1 or SMAD3 is overcome by expression of let-7g anti-miRNA inhibitor. This would be a significant outcome for future clinical trials.   His methods were clear and extremely interesting, this presenter was clear and his audience was a mix of basic and clinical researchers and he did a fantastic job appealing to both groups. 
Somewhat to my own astonishment I learned a lot from this experience. First, I learned basic concepts in lung physiology such as the role of EMT in pathology and gained an understanding as to what the VLC research projects entail. Second, I always thought the VLC projects were interesting but not necessarily clinically relevant.  This was a contradiction to that way of thinking.  It was clear that this group understands the science, is enthusiastic about continuing research in this topic and has a clinical application in mind for the future.   I believe that I will be able to collaborate with this group to some extent in the future when they are looking for human samples and I look forward to it.

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