Matrix Biology Europe 2018: Celebrating 50 years of FECTS


By Dr. Peter Bell, Postdoctoral Fellow, Overall Lab

The field of extracellular matrix (ECM) biology has come a long way since 1968 – the year of formation of the Federation of European Connective Tissue Societies (FECTS). At this time, only a single form of collagen had been described, and the first DNA cloning methods would not arrive for another five years.

Conference dinner at Old Trafford

Matrix Biology Europe’s 2018 meeting celebrated this history, and the 50-year anniversary of the Federation, by showcasing the cutting edge in matrix research from around the world. Thanks to support provided by a CBR Post-Doc Travel Award and the British Society Matrix Biology (BSMB), I was able to participate.

Sessions focused on the relevance of ECM to areas including human disease, cell signaling, and mechanobiology. Of particular interest to me personally were the talks about circadian clock regulation of protein secretion and ECM homeostasis – coined the ‘chronomatrix’ – which is a theme pioneered by our hosts and my former colleagues at The Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research.

I presented my own work as a poster, describing our recently optimized method for the proteomic analysis of bone. This attracted interest from a number of researchers keen to learn from our developments in tissue extraction, which remains a challenge for complete analysis of other connective tissues such as cartilage.

It was a real highlight to see my former PhD advisory committee-member, Prof. Ray Boot-Handford, deliver the plenary Fell Muir Award lecture, where he described his scientific journey from the mapping of the gene encoding type X collagen, through to ongoing clinical trials to treat MCDS (a form of skeletal dysplasia caused by COL10A1 mutations). This, combined with the discussions and new connections that I formed with other researchers, will be my enduring memory of a productive conference.

Official conference photo
Photo credit: Matrix Biology Europe 2018 Conference