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Engaging with your online network

The British Society for Immunology’s London Immunology Group organised the first UK B cell meeting for July 2020. To coincide with this first meeting, they ran a competition for the best B cell-inspired image, from confocal imaging to abstract art. Even though the ongoing situation with COVID-19 means this meeting is now postponed, a winner was chosen and proudly announced on Twitter. In this article, we feature the winning image showcasing an example of online engagement by one of our Regional & Affinity Groups. Now, more than ever, we need to stay connected with our networks and the wider immunology community.

Uniting immunologists

The B cell meeting was organised by the BSI London Immunology Group (LIG) with the aim of bringing together the UK’s diverse group of B cell researchers and clinicians and fostering collaboration in a friendly and fun environment. The BSI’s LIG network unites the immunology community based in London, as our other Regional Groups connect BSI members around other locations in the UK. They set up different types of events, such as seminars and symposiums, on all areas of immunology, from macrophages to microbiota. Conversely, our Affinity Groups are arranged around specific themes in immunology. All of our Regional & Affinity Groups have committees made up of members from different backgrounds and career grades. The BSI’s LIG committee is made up of members from each of the main London universities and they actively encourage PhD students and early career researchers to get involved.

The source of antibodies

Planned for Wednesday 1 July 2020, the meeting offered many different opportunities to present B cell research, including short elevator-style pitches, posters and 10 min talks. The importance of B cells to human health and scientific discovery is difficult to overstate. B cells are central to immunity and memory of infection, yet B cell deficiencies have devastating impacts and dysregulation underlines many autoimmune and allergic diseases. Their unique ability to produce antibodies underpins many cutting-edge treatments, forming the basis of the majority of vaccines and checkpoint blockade therapies.

Over 50 years on from the discovery of their role as the source of antibodies, B cells remain one of the most diversely studied and utilised cells of the immune system. Thanks to recent progress in experimental approaches, we now have a greater appreciation of the complex nature of B cell development and their role in immune regulation and homeostasis. Despite this wealth of knowledge, there remains still great activity and interest in the field, with numerous challenges remaining.

Winning image

The winning submission came from Adi Biram from The Weizmann Institute of Science, who prepared the sample and captured an image of a germinal centre formed within the gutassociated lymphoid organs in response to microbiota-derived antigens:

Naïve B cells reside in the B cell follicle and surround the GC B cells.
Image by Adi Biram, Weizmann Institute of Science. Naïve B cells (shown in green) reside in the B cell follicle and surround the GC B cells (shown in purple). Upon antigen encounter by naïve cells, the antigen-specific B cells enter the GC reaction. During the GC response, B cells bearing high-affinity antibody variants undergo iterative cycles of migration between two areas: the dark zone (DZ), where they proliferate and mutate their antibody-encoding genes; and the light zone (LZ) (shown in white, marked by follicular dendritic cell staining), where they are selected by T follicular helper (Tfh) cells for expansion and differentiation into plasma cells. Markers used for staining: IgD (naïve B cells), GL-7 (GC cells), CD35 (FDC), Hoechst (Nuclear staining). Scale bar 50 μm.

Active on Twitter

Many of our Regional & Affinity Groups have Twitter and other social media accounts to connect and engage with their networks online. One recent example of online engagement by our Groups is the BSI Tumour Immunology Group. It was relaunched last year and their inaugural meeting planned for March 2020 was sadly postponed due to COVID-19. However, they continue to interact online and share anything useful, interesting or fun relevant to tumour immunology. In particular, they supported our official journal Clinical & Experimental Immunology in the launch of their new review series ‘Immune checkpoint inhibition: from molecules to clinical application’.

Teresa Prados
BSI Marketing & Communications Manager​

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