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Meeting report: Fuelling the Immune Response

Our Immunometabolism Affinity Group hosted their inaugural meeting earlier this year. Here, the committee members report back on the highlights of the meeting and the positive feedback they received from the attendees, and look forward to their upcoming activities.

Upon inception of the BSI Immunometabolism Affinity Group over a year ago, we set about creating a UK based network of like-minded researchers and, in March 2019, we hosted our inaugural meeting in Newcastle: 'Fuelling the Immune Response'. 

We are pleased to report that the meeting was a success: it was very well attended (attracting 161 delegates), made a huge ‘splash’ on social media (follow us on Twitter @BSI_immunomet) and featured a great line-up of distinguished speakers. We were overwhelmed by the positive feedback from our attendees, with the majority of participants agreeing that the talks were excellent, that the balance of early and more established researchers was ideal and indicating that they would attend this event again.

A central point to highlight was the sheer abundance of unpublished data presented at this meeting. This was truly in the spirit of a collaborative atmosphere and served to pique the interest of our audience. Our meeting also boasted plenty of networking opportunities, including a dance floor which proved popular among some of our delegates! 


The highlights

Keynote lecture by Prof Doug Green

An inspiring keynote lecture delivered by Prof Doug Green (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital) opened the meeting.

Prof Green’s tour de force of autophagy and its role in the metabolic control of the immune system detailed his group’s latest exciting findings on the inflammatory responses triggered by macrophages with specific defects in autophagy and the knock-on effects on the anti-tumour T cell response. 

The meeting continued to go from strength to strength with a number of invited talks from speakers from across Europe, covering hugely diverse topics.

Our highlights included: 

  • Dave Finlay’s (Trinity College Dublin) car analogy to discuss the potential use of NK cells as immunotherapeutic targets: we now know that you need to engage the engine (activate your NK cell) by putting your foot on the accelerator pedal (enhancing cell functionality); refuel [the NK cell] with more “gas” (by providing a favourable nutrient microenvironment) or, if all else fails, simply buy a new car!
  • A description of adipose lymphocytes as ‘fire-starters’, (think temperature control – not just Keith Flint) by Lydia Lynch (Trinity College Dublin) whilst emphasising the critical functions of IL-17 as a key cytokine controlling metabolism during systemic metabolic emergencies (like during cold). 
  • Our very own Linda Sinclair (University of Dundee) described how amino acid bio-availability in T cells is tightly controlled by expression of the amino acid transporter, SLC7A5, and how this directly regulates methionine metabolism in activated T cells.
  • We learnt of the fine balance in iron metabolism required for host homeostasis and the damaging nature of reactive oxygen species thanks to the thoroughly entertaining talks given by Hal Drakesmith and his student Joe Frost (University of Oxford). “You know they are bad because they are called OH, NO, and ONOO!”.
  • Ping-Chi Ho (University of Lausanne) brought an intriguing mix of mitochondria, metabolic fitness and effector outcomes to the table – definitively proving that we don’t yet know it all!
  • And some incredibly interesting talks selected from submitted abstracts. Richard Carroll (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) told us about how the control of circadian rhythm (via the clock protein BMAL1) regulates antigen presentation. Georgia Perona-Wright (University of Glasgow) presented data describing metabolic responses of Th2 cells during helminth infection. Lauren Callender (Queen Mary University of London) showed compelling data that type-2 diabetes patients have prematurely aged T cells with accompanying metabolic defects. 
  • To round it all off, we had a masterclass in all thing’s AMPK from Grahame Hardie (University of Dundee).


Bright Sparks

We were all impressed by the array of input from our early career researchers, including the discussion during each session, the oral presentations and the posters presented during our evening session. These really showcased all the exciting work within the field of immunometabolism.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our prize winners once again:

Prize winners
  • Postdoc Bright Spark: Richard Carroll (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland)
  • PhD Bright Spark: Graham Heieis (University of Glasgow)
  • Poster prizes: Suzanne Hodge (University of Manchester) , Alison Galloway (University of Dundee) and Chloe Choi (Trinity College Dublin)



Committee member Dr Anna Schurich (King’s College London) said:

One thing that really stood out for me was the breadth and quality of work done by young investigators. The PhD and postdoc Bright Sparks session was truly excellent, as were the short talks, many given by newly established PIs. The research done in the field is impressive.

Going forward

For all those who are interested in the topic of immunometabolism, the BSI’s official journal, Clinical and Experimental Immunology, has a collection articles specifically on this topic. The 'Translating Immunometabolism' Review Series, guest edited by Sarah Dimeloe and Claudio Mauro, is free to access. You can read the series here.

We'd like to use this opportunity to thank all our speakers, poster presenters, delegates and those who have taken the time to contact us personally after the event. We'd also like to thank the BSI for all the organisational and financial support and to our sponsors for their generous contributions.

We cannot wait to repeat this UK Immunometabolism Network meeting in 2021! In the meantime, we have been busy preparing an Immunometabolism double session at the upcoming BSI Congress in Liverpool. We are looking forward to seeing you there!

The BSI Immunometabolism Affinity team
Sarah Dimeloe, Laura Pallett, Adam Byrne, Linda Sinclair and Anna Schurich