2019 Gordon Research Conference on Atherosclerosis

By Dr. Pierre-Marie Andrault, Postdoctral Fellow, Brömme Lab

Each year, the CBR provides travel awards to support its postdoctoral fellows and research associates in their travel to scientific conferences. This year, thanks to the CBR Postdoctoral Travel Award, I was lucky to travel to Newry, Maine in the U.S.A for the 2019 Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Atherosclerosis from Sunday, June 16th to Friday, June 21st. This international meeting has been held every two years since 1975 and gathers many experts in the field of cardiovascular biology. The conference focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms linked to the development of atherosclerosis as well as the latest therapeutic strategies that are currently being investigated.

The conference was divided into nine sessions covering subjects like dyslipidemia and diabetes, genetic regulation of vascular and immune cells, and the contribution of non-coding RNA in vascular diseases. Crosstalk between immune and metabolic response in atherosclerosis as well as the contribution of innate and adaptative immunity in the pathology of the disease were also discussed. The last session on the latest therapeutic approaches and diagnostic tools was of particular interest to me since it emphasized the need for new diagnostic markers such as Lipoprotein a (Lpa) and novel therapies such as the genetic invalidation of PCSK9 in the treatment of familial hypercholesterolemia.

Outdoor fireplace by the Grand Summit Hotel’s lake

I was one of 112 poster presenters at the meeting. My poster was about the regulation of vascular calcification by elastolytic cysteine cathepsins K, S and V. Cysteine cathepsins are lysosomal proteases that are highly expressed in macrophages and participate in the remodeling of the vascular wall associated with the formation of atherosclerotic lesions. Vascular calcification is a common complication of atherosclerosis and our lab showed that the cleavage of elastin by cysteine cathepsins K, S and V can accelerate the calcification process. Conversely, mineralized elastin is more resistant to further degradation. We also demonstrated that the degradation of insoluble elastin fibers generates soluble peptides that can stimulate the calcification of vascular smooth muscle cells and we made the same observation in an ex vivo mouse aorta model. I had good discussions around my poster, especially with those who were not very familiar with proteolysis and were looking for new ideas.

We stayed at a quiet resort in the middle of the mountains in Newry, Maine. We had some free time in the afternoon which was ideal for hiking or simply enjoying the fresh air at the hotel’s nearby lake. That is, if you didn’t mind the mosquitoes… Fortunately the hotel was selling repellent! I also had the pleasure to meet with Dr. Yajaira Suarez (from Yale University School of Medicine) with whom I had lunch during her most recent visit to the CBR. The last evening, we had the privilege to go up the North Peak to taste some American lobster at the Peak Lodge (a ski resort). This concluded the meeting on a high note and I definitely recommend it to any seafood amateurs.