On 20 March 2017, immunologists from across London and beyond met at Imperial College London for a one-day symposium on monocyte and macrophage biology, organised by the London Immunology Group (LIG). The aim of this meeting was to promote discussion around the development, function and tissue-specificity of monocytes and macrophages, and to celebrate the work of Elie Metchnikoff, the Russian scientist who first discovered phagocytes over 100 years ago.
To begin the day, Siamon Gordon (Oxford) addressed a packed lecture theatre with an introduction to the history of the mononuclear phagocyte and discovery by key scientists, whose seminal work paved the way for modern macrophage research. The talks that followed demonstrated the recent leaps in our understanding in the field.
Simon Yona (UCL) showed novel data assessing the ontogeny and development between classical and non-classical monocyte subsets in human circulation, work that had previously only been performed in animal models. Delving deeper into monocyte specialisation, Pierre Guermonprez (KCL) discussed his recent work further dissecting subsets of classical monocytes in the bone marrow and their preferential differentiation into inflammatory macrophages and true dendritic cells.
Other talks focussed on monocytes and macrophages in disease. Kevin Woollard (ICL) showed evidence for unusual non-classical monocyte behaviour in the glomeruli in an intravital model of crescentic glomerulonephritis; Chiara Berlato (QMUL) described strategies for modulating tumour-associated macrophage function in vivo; and Harry Antoniades (ICL) demonstrated the importance of monocyte recruitment and macrophage phenotype in the outcome of acute liver failure. To conclude the day’s science, Clare Bennett (UCL) posed the challenging question of whether epidermal-resident Langerhans cells should be classed as dendritic cells or macrophages, presenting evidence for a macrophage-like role in the local support of T cell function.
Following the science talks, and before an evening reception of drinks and networking, the audience was treated to a keynote lecture from Luba Vikhanski, science writer and biographer of Elie Metchnikoff. Luba told the inspiring story of Metchnikoff’s discovery and characterisation of phagocytes, despite huge amounts of criticism from his peers. Luba’s lecture was punctuated with stories of her own research in preparation of the biography – including a visit to a high security vault in a Parisian bank to access archived letters from Metchnikoff’s time at the Institut Pasteur!
Overall, the meeting successfully linked the past and present of monocyte and macrophage research, highlighting the emerging understanding of blood monocyte function and tissue macrophage heterogeneity, with lively discussions providing inspiration for future work. The quality and popularity of this meeting showcased London as a hub for monocyte and macrophage science, and has prompted the beginnings of a regular phagocyte meeting, to be organised by the LIG.
PhD Student, Imperial College London
London Immunology Group
The BSI’s London Immunology Group aims to bring the London immunology community together through organising events covering all areas of immunology. Due to the popularity of this meeting, we now plan to organize a local ‘phagocyte meeting’ on a regular basis, so watch this space! If there are other topics you would like us to cover or if you would like our help to organise an immunology event in London, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.