About 50-200 billion of our cells die daily by apoptosis or programmed cell death in the human body. The mechanisms of apoptosis have been extensively studied, but those of the elimination of apoptotic cells are much less understood. Apoptotic cells are rapidly engulfed and digested by their neighbors or by professional phagocytes in a process known as phagocytosis, clearance or efferocytosis. During development this process plays a key role in tissue morphogenesis and renewal. It also allows for the maintenance of tissue homeostasis in adults and promotes the resolution of inflammation. Failure to clear apoptotic cells can result in developmental defects, chronic inflammatory disorders, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. For example, it has been associated with Lupus, a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease, and with retinal degeneration. Dying cells can be cleared before completion of their programmed death, and failure in this process may result in cancer. A thorough understanding of efferocytosis is essential to design new therapies to prevent or treat chronic inflammation, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer. Some of the molecular mechanisms of apoptotic cell clearance are shared with those of pathogen clearance, and thus studying efferocytosis will also lead to new therapies to fight infections. This is critical since pathogens are becoming resistant to current treatments. At this 2013 Apoptotic Cell Recognition &Clearance Gordon Research Conference and its associated Gordon Research Seminar to be held from June 22-28 at the University of New England, Biddeford, ME, we will discuss the latest advances made in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of efferocytosis in all model organisms, from worm, fly, fish and mouse, to mammalian (including human) cells in the context of both healthy and disease states. This conference, held every other year since 2003, will be the sixth in its series and is the only regular international meeting in this field. This conference will bring together researchers with expertise in biochemistry, genetics, cell, molecular and developmental biology, neurobiology, immunology and pharmacology, as well as clinicians who are at the forefront of the field. Post-docs and graduate students will have the opportunity to orally present their work and network amongst themselves at the GRS. This GRS will prepare and encourage them to attend and participate at the GRC, where they can also present their work in poster format to discuss and exchange ideas with the leaders in the field. The best GRS speakers and some GRC poster presenters will be selected for short talks at the GRC, a much sought-after exposure and opportunity for feedback from their peers.
Surplus cells produced during the development or maintenance of our tissues and organs and cells that have become harmful to our health, such as virus-infected cells and tumors, are often induced to undergo programmed cell death so as to be removed in a process known as phagocytosis/clearance or efferocytosis by neighboring cells or professional immune cells that act as the guardians of our body. This process can be manipulated clinically to promote tissue repair or immunization;however, defects in the recognition and removal of dying cells can contribute to inflammatory, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer. This proposed Gordon Research Conference and its accompanying Gordon Research Seminar on Apoptotic Cell Recognition and Clearance will discuss these topics and lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of this process and to the development of novel therapeutic strategies to fight this wide range of devastating and costly diseases.