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Proteintech Europe made a small financial contribution to help Daniel, a PhD student at the Centre for Immunology and Infection at the University of York, attend the Non-Coding Genome conference (EMBL Heidelberg, Germany, 13–16 Sep 2017). It is important that all life scientists have an opportunity to learn more about their research area and share their scientific insight with others. For that reason, Proteintech regularly offers travel grants to talented scientists throughout the year.
Below, Daniel shares his thoughts on the conference:
I study the role of microRNAs in the immune context. MicroRNAs are non-coding RNAs that are highly conserved in animals and play an important role in gene regulation by targeting mRNA and preventing protein synthesis. The properties of microRNAs are rather unknown in the context of the lymphatic endothelium, which serves as an important conduit in inflammation, infection, wound healing, and cancer (1). My project investigates the role of inflammation-induced microRNAs in the interaction between human T cells and lymphatic endothelium. Recently, I elucidated a mechanism of microRNA regulation on the immune checkpoint ligand PD-L1 (programmed death ligand-1; 2). PD-L1 is involved in the maintenance of T cell activation, specifically delivering an “off” signal to its receptor on the surface of T cells. I discovered that miR-155, a key regulator of immunity, controls the expression of PD-L1.
The conference took place at EMBL Heidelberg (13–16 Sep 2017), Germany and focused on the diverse and dynamic roles of non-coding RNAs. The talks were of a very high standard and focused on long non-coding RNAs, piRNAs, and microRNAs. Interestingly, an anti-CRISPR protein (AcrIIA4) produced by viruses was reported to inhibit CRISPR-Cas9, specifically SpyCas9, leading to the cutting of double-stranded DNA. These inhibitors of Cas9 could potentially serve as an effective way to reduce the off-target effects caused by excessive SpyCas9 activity as part of gene editing in human cells (3). Another fascinating topic was the application of single-cell sequencing, a newer development of next-generation sequencing technology. This method may provide higher-resolution data to researchers and reveal information such as heterogeneity that would otherwise be masked by bulk populations.
The conference was a great opportunity to present results, get valuable feedback from world-leading experts, and engage with fellow young scientists, and it provided a venue to explore future career opportunities in gene regulation.
Daniel highlighted that networking is essential:
I am always open to suggestions and have received helpful advice and technical assistance from researchers and clinicians alike. I collaborated with scientists from Barts Cancer Institute regarding our recent publication. The conference enabled me to meet similar researchers and discuss project ideas, which I found useful.