A few weeks ago I attended the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) General Meeting in Boston. I wrote up a post about the virome workshop I attended (follow this link for the post), but I also want to write out a summary for the rest of the conference. The ASM meeting was huge (I'm talking thousands of microbiologists) with many full days of great science, so an in depth review of the meeting would be beyond the scope of this single blog post. Therefore my goal is to give you a brief summary of the meeting, along with some links and resources you can use if you want to get more information. Additionally, for another summary of the general meeting, check out this ASM summary episode of TWIM.
Before I get into my general thoughts about the meeting, I want to go over a few cool lectures I attended. I am going to start out with some really cool work presented by Katherine Lemon, who discussed the role of a Propionibacterium acnes produced chemical, called Coproporphyrin III (C3), in Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation. S. aureus is a common bacterial opportunistic pathogen (which means it can live on you without causing problems, but can cause infections in certain situations), and can form biofilms to make the infection particularly difficult to treat. Dr. Lemon's group found that the addition of a common skin bacterium, P. acnes, to S. aureus caused increased biofilm formation (measured as aggregation), and this was cause by the C3 which was produced and excreted by the P. acnes. This is the first evidence for the role of this chemical in bacterial interactions, and is also one of the few known ways S. aureus interacts with P. acnes. I also think this is particularly cool because it shows the complex ways different bacteria can interact as communities. This highlights the importance of understanding microbial community interactions when studying bacterial pathogenesis, instead of just studying single bacteria in isolation. Check out the abstract here if you want to read more.
|Opening talk by Lora Hooper. This was the main stage,|
which kind of looked like a TED talk.
The next day I went to a really awesome series of lectures about the roles of microbes in cancer. We heard from Christian Jobin, Thomas Meyer, and Karen Guillemin who both talked about the roles of bacteria in cancer, including the roles of H. pylori in GI related cancers. Denise Galloway changed gears a bit and talked about the roles of viruses in various cancers, and how there is still a lot of research in discovering new, previously unknown links between viruses and cancer. She also talked about T cell therapies that can target viral antigens associated with the cancer cells, and thereby destroy the cancer cells. Neil St. John Forbes finished the series by talking about his research in engineering Salmonella bacteria to target and destroy cancer cells. He talked about using the Salmonella to penetrate and deliver drugs into tumors that drug cannot get into alone, much like tiny robots that invade and kill the tumor with their drug weapons. Dr. Forbes discussed his lab's ability to control drug release and prevent release into anything except the tumor interior. They are doing this using radiation stimulated gene expression of S. aureus alpha hemolysin (a toxic agent that kills the tumor cells), as wells as using quorum sensing triggers to allow drug release only in the dense tumor environment. See his review of this field in the works cited below.
|There were some pretty cool places to walk through|
and explore around our hotel.
If you are looking for more information about ASM 2014 meeting, check out the Twitter archives for #ASM2014, where many people were live tweeting about talks and information from the meeting. And as always, if you have any questions or if you just want to talk more about the general meeting, leave a comment below, shoot me an email, or find me on twitter.
Forbes, N. (2010). Engineering the perfect (bacterial) cancer therapy Nature Reviews Cancer, 10 (11), 785-794 DOI: 10.1038/nrc2934