“Blood Brain Barriers Bari 2022” with OrganoVIR Labs & GUTVIBRATIONS

Between the 21st and 23rd of September 2022, four members of the GUTVIBRATIONS consortium, Eline Freeze, Renata Baptista Vieira de Sà, Dasja Pajkrt, and Salvatore Simminialong with OrganoVIR Labs PhD student, Pamela Capendale, attended the 24th International Symposium on Signal Transduction at the Blood-Brain Barriers (also known as Blood Brain Barriers Bari or BBB Bari 2022) in Bari, Italy.


The Signal Transduction Symposia, organized by the Signal Transduction Society (STS) provides an inspiring atmosphere for the dissemination of basic and clinical research on biological barriers in the central nervous system at molecular, sub-cellular, and supra-cellular levels using multidisciplinary approaches. For the first time, the event was hosted in Bari.


The event’s programme included plenary lectures, oral presentations, and poster presentations. Both Eline and Renata remarked that the opening presentation, “Pericytes at the BBB – Progress, Promises and Challenges” by Omolara Ogunshola left the best impression. “Her presentation provided a great overview of what is known about pericytes and as we are currently working on getting our own pericytes, it gave us a lot of insight on possibilities of how to proceed and what to look out for” Eline said.


For Pamela, her favorite talk was by Martin Palus from Czech Republic, who spoke about in-vitro model development for Tick-borne encephalitis. “His talk was very helpful as we, in GUTVIBRATIONS, have very similar approaches regarding the set-up of an in vitro model to study neuropathology” Pamela said. She also shared that she was inspired by the talk by Francesco Pisani (titled ‘Tunneling nanotube-based supercellularity between human blood-brain barrier cells and the post-ischemic repairing process’). “His talk reminded me about how versatile and adaptable the cells in the human body are, and how much more about their development and behaviour in vivo is still yet to be discovered” she said.

What Did our Members Do in BBB Bari?

At the conference, Eline presented her poster, titled “GUTVIBRATIONS: GUT VIRUS BRAIN AXIS TECHNOLOGY IN ORGANOID SCIENCE”. Her poster describes what the GUTVIBRATIONS project aims to establish: a biologically driven, versatile, physiologically relevant and user-friendly gut-brain axis Organ-on-Chip (OoC) to research virus infections and antiviral drugs. Her poster also entails the different compartments of this model, which can be used as separate models (for instance the gut-mucosa and BBB (Blood-Brain-Barrier) model) or as a complete gut-brain axis model.


“It was amazing to meet other scientists that are also working on establishing a gut-brain axis OoC” said Eline. She also learned how other scientists are developing the model to be used for different applications. “The STACK plates, in a combination of Biosilk, is a new platform and a lot of people were interested in learning more about it. I enjoyed discovering how the model can be used for other applications other than virus research” she added.


On the other hand, Pamela delivered her presentation (titled “iPSC-Derived neurovascular unit model to study neuroinvasion of parechovirus A3”) during Session 2: Cellular and Molecular Modelling of the Brain Barriers. In her presentation, Pamela explained the need for Blood-Brain-Barrier research in virology and highlights the current lack of representative human models. “With in vitro stem cell derived models, we try to tackle this problem specifically for Parechovirus-A as there are many questions surrounding this virus as a cause for neuropathology” Pamela said. 


Following her presentation, Pamela received a comment from Professor M.D. Maria Deli on the technical aspects of the neurovascular unit model. “Her comment was very helpful, as often in literature you cannot find which methods have been previously tried by other researchers, whether it worked or not, and why” Pamela said. She also added that the time-gap between the moment of the discovery of the results and publishing of the results causes a delay in the knowledge transfer. “This is why I think these conferences are really helpful, as they spread current insights on what works and doesn’t work. Also, it’s a good method to share ideas on methods between researchers and labs” she added.  


“Both Eline and Pamela did extremely well in their presentations. I think they were able to elaborate on the work we do in the GUTVIBRATIONS project really well” said Renata, who attended the conference to learn and understand the use of iPSC models and OoC approaches.  


Exploring Bari – GUTVIBRATIONS Style

Aside from attending the conference, our members also explored the lovely port city. As they were staying near the Old Town and within walking distance to the beach, they were able to enjoy the warm weather, the delicious food, and of course, espresso. Our members also joined a tour which takes them through the city and explained the culture and history of the Bari. Overall, we can conclude that the GUTVIBRATIONS trip to BBB Bari was a successful and enjoyable experience!