© Martin Lugger

The Importance of Scientific Meetings

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Scientific meetings are one of the primary venues for scientists to present their new work to their colleagues with the purpose of receiving feedback at an early stage of their research. They serve as an informal peer review that can help researchers to develop, clarify, and refine their work, and thus they are an integral part of the process of science.

 (Martin Lugger )
© Martin Lugger

The Wings for Life Scientific Meeting
The annual Wings for Life Scientific Meeting in May offers to the Wings for Life foundation the opportunity to evaluate the advancements of all the projects that were selected for support.
This year’s meeting took place in Salzburg over two days that were packed with dense scientific presentations. Nearly 90 scientists and clinicians coming from nine countries  (USA, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium) covered many aspects of spinal cord injury research. From early neuroprotection, plasticity and regeneration to rehabilitation and quality of life issues.
Since the topics of the projects vary greatly from one another, the meeting also offeredthe opportunity for scientists to gain knowledge in other fields while they are stimulated to start successful collaborations. They can for example learn about new research, tools, and techniques that might be relevant to their work.

Here are a few examples

Axon regeneration
Professor He presented new molecules that are able to boost the intrinsic capacity of neurons to regenerate (somehow rejuvenating them). Dr Yoon and Dr Kwok talked about their approaches to modify the cellular environment to allow the regrowth of the axons (for example by modifying the matrix that surrounds them).

The projects of Dr Bretzner, Prof. Whelan, Dr Dougherty and Dr Williams deal with a somehow more subtle regeneration. They seek (via different means) to promote a local re-arrangement of the neurons that survived the spinal injury. Dr Dougherty for example takes advantage of the neural structures located in the lower part of the spine that controls automated walking.

The projects of Dr Flanagan, Dr Fouad and Dr Wang focus on inflammation, a mechanism that has both positive and negative effects and try to channel its “energy” to boost the recovery of lost functions.

Clinical aspects
Most projects focused on different aspects of regenerative medicine but directly applied to human subjects. This included for example projects that take advantage of mechanisms like hypoxia (Dr Trumbower), electrical stimulation (Dr Minassian) or monitoring of the injury site (Dr Papadopoulos), in order to promote recovery after spinal cord injury.

Promising results and the difficulties of translation
Scientists are now more aware of and discussed the difficulties that can prevent promising findings from ever reaching a meaningful application for humans. The consensus view is that all projects, even those that deal with the necessary fundamental aspects of science, are done in the ideal parameters to facilitate the transition to a real clinical testing.

We want to say thank you again to all participants of this year’s Wings for Life Scientific Meeting in Salzburg. We are already looking forward to next year and are exited to learn more about many new interesting results.

Find all projects we fund here