Cell biology experts meet to discuss latest research
March, 2016

Conference delegates and WCM-Q faculty members.

Conference delegates and WCM-Q faculty members.

Leading biomedical researchers met for a two-day ‘Ion Channels and Transporters in Health and Disease’ conference organized by Professor Douglas Bovell of WCM-Q.

Sixteen speakers from Qatar and the wider world presented the findings of their projects to their peers on the intricate biological processes that take place at the cellular level to cause conditions such as diabetes, brain disorders, gastrointestinal disease and heart disease.

Ion channels are proteins that form semi-permeable gateways across the cell membrane, allowing essential ions to pass in and out as and when they are needed for a variety of processes that keep the cell alive and functioning.

These tiny valve-like structures are little known to most people but are absolutely essential for the survival of virtually all life on earth. Understanding more about how these ion channels operate sheds light not only on the basic science of animal and plant cells, but also on the pathological alterations that cause disease, helping researchers develop effective new medications.

The conference was sponsored by Qatar National Research Fund’s (QNRF) Conference and Workshop Sponsorship Program (CWSP), and Professor Bovell, welcoming the many talented researchers to the meeting, highlighted Qatar’s desire to develop a knowledge-based economy for the future and acknowledged QNRF and Qatar Foundation for their generous support of WCM-Q’s research activities.

Dr. Khaled Machaca, associate dean of research at WCM-Q, presented the findings of his laboratory, which focuses on calcium signaling. “The research presented by our international panel of speakers is extremely exciting with many opportunities for learning from and working with one another,” said Dr. Machaca.

Dr. Raphael Courjaret, research associate at WCM-Q, delivers his lecture.

Dr. Raphael Courjaret, research associate at
WCM-Q, delivers his lecture.

Eminent scientists who spoke at the event included Professor Brian Harvey of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), who presented findings on the gender specific nature of cellular functions, and Professor Hsiao Chan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who spoke about the role of ion channels in insulin release in cystic fibrosis-related diabetes. Professor Deborah Baines of St. George’s University of London highlighted a relationship between glucose concentrations and bacterial infections in the airways of diabetes sufferers, while Professor Peter McNaughton of Kings College London presented about the role of ion channels in inflammation and pain. Professor Jens Leipziger of the University of Aarhus in Denmark, presented his group’s findings on ion channels in kidney function.

Other leading researchers who presented their findings included Professor Ivana Novak of the University of Copenhagen, Professor Karl Kunzelmann of the University of Regensburg, Professor Sarah Lummis of the University of Cambridge, Dr. Raphael Courjaret, research associate at WCM-Q, Professors Dietrich Büsselberg and Christopher Triggle of WCM-Q, Dr. Warren Thomas, also of RCSI, Dr. Fatima Mraiche of the College of Pharmacy, Qatar University, and Dr. Abdelilah Arredouani of the Qatar Biomedical Research Institute. The event was made possible by CWSP grant 6-C-0322-15008 from the Qatar National Research Fund, itself a member of Qatar Foundation.

Professor Douglas Bovell, professor of physiology and biophysics at WCM-Q, gave the opening and closing remarks at the event.

He said: “We have learned about some excellent research that has contributed a great deal of very exciting new knowledge relating to ion channels and the role they play in a variety of debilitating diseases.

“We now look forward to building on the positive working relationships we have established with other institutions in order to pursue opportunities for collaborative research in the future.”