Keystone Symposium: Fibrosis and Tissue Repair: From Molecules and Mechanics to Therapeutic Approaches

By Dr. Marine Theret, Postdoctoral Researcher, and Farshad BabaeijandaghiGraduate Student, Rossi Lab.

Thanks to the 2019-2020 Centre for Blood Research Postdoctoral Fellow and Graduate Student Travel Awards program, Rossi lab members Marine Theret (Postdoctoral Fellow) and Farshad Babaeijandaghi (PhD Candidate) had the opportunity to attend the Keystone Symposium, Fibrosis and Tissue Repair, From Molecules and Mechanics to Therapeutic Approaches. This conference took place from the 19th to the 23rd of February 2020 in beautiful Victoria, BC. When asked to reflect on the experience, both Marine and Farshad expressed their gratitude to the CBR for offering these awards and shared some of the memorable details of the meeting.

Marine: In our aging society, degenerative complications of chronic diseases are on the rise and account for a significant percentage of deaths. Among these, fibrosis is the most common, yet no therapy capable of mitigating its effects is available. This is the case for example in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and other forms of non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases. The talks at the Keystone Symposium: Fibrosis and Tissue Repair, From Molecules and Mechanics emphasized how investigating and understanding the signaling pathways that influence fibrosis as a whole will not only elucidate key components of the regenerative process, but may also reveal pathways that could be targeted therapeutically. Discussions at this meeting were focused on how research findings may translate to advances that could ultimately prevent inflammation and fibrosis, and enhance regeneration or maintain tissue homeostasis and organ function.

Farshad: My main research interest is the role of inflammation in tissue repair and fibrosis. I attended several incredible talks focused on improving our understanding of the pathogenesis of different fibrotic diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and cirrhosis. There were also a few talks covering current clinical trials to treat fibrotic conditions. Another Keystone Symposium, Stromal Cells in Immunity and Disease was held concurrently with the Fibrosis and Tissue Repair meeting. The meetings were well-organized, which provided the unique opportunity to interact with experts in both the fields of fibrosis and inflammation and to consider novel collaborations with leading labs in these areas.

Marine: While each talk provided new and amazing insights into the development of fibrosis and inflammation, one talk was of particular interest to me. Dr. Thomas A. Wynn, Vice-President, Discovery, at Pfizer in Cambridge, MA, and one of the organizers of the meeting, gave a presentation about the two different types of fibrosis and how they are regulated. First, he spoke of TGFb-dependent fibrosis, linked to the Th1 inflammatory response, which is the main type of fibrosis. Then he discussed TGFb-independent fibrosis, linked to Th2 inflammation. At present, signaling pathways regulating this second type of fibrosis are not well understood. I find this interesting and I think my current project investigating TAK1 signaling in fibro/adipogenic precursors (FAPs) may help us to better understand this second type of fibrosis. What I learned at this conference has guided my project in an unexpected direction with regards to its application in the study of human diseases.

Farshad: For each Keystone symposium, select abstracts are chosen for oral presentation on the basis of relevance to the meeting and quality. I was honoured to give a short talk on our latest findings relating to the specific subtypes of macrophages and their potential as therapeutic targets in the treatment of muscular dystrophies. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak in front of a global audience – conference attendees were from across Canada and the United States, as well as European countries, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. I received lots of feedback, which will help me develop new ideas for my research projects.

Marine and Farshad wish to thank the CBR for supporting their travel to Victoria and their attendance at the Keystone Symposium: Fibrosis and Tissue Repair, From Molecules and Mechanics to Therapeutic Approaches. It was a memorable and educational experience and they enjoyed spending time with fellow lab members in shared accommodation in a peaceful setting. Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students are encouraged to read more about CBR Travel Award opportunities here.