The human genome contains at least 65 functional genes encoding intermediate filament proteins, placing them among the 100 largest gene families in humans. The remarkable discoveries of hundreds of mutations in IF genes that give rise to a plethora of human diseases have attracted the attention of basic scientists and physicians. The etiology and clinical manifestations of abnormal intermediate filament proteins are wide-ranging, including premature aging diseases such as progeria, cardiomyopathies, neurodegenerative disorders, numerous forms of muscular dystrophy, as well as blistering diseases of the epidermis, amongst many others. In other diseases abnormal aggregates of IF are now being recognized as factors in motor neuron diseases, Alzheimer's disease and giant axonal neuropathy. Furthermore, intermediate filament proteins can serve as markers of the tissue origin of poorly differentiated tumors (keratins define epithelial tissues, whereas vimentin defines mesenchymal origin), as tumor markers in serum, and as a means of detecting micrometastases. The 2014 GRC IF Meeting aims to unite researchers contributing distinct perspectives and experience but who together reveal insights relevant to intermediate filament biology, such as their structural and functional relationships to other established or emerging areas. Our objective is to promote a stimulating series of scientific sessions and an environment attractive to young investigators/ trainees from diverse backgrounds while encouraging established scientists to embark on novel questions. In addition to the use of human tissue and database resources, model systems represented will include Drosophila, Xenopus, zebrafish, C. elegans and mouse. The approaches represented will include molecular/ biochemical, cellular and structural/ biophysical, genetic/ developmental, while discussion will be structured within eight categories indicated below in the session titles. The GRC IF meetings bring together individuals that would not otherwise gather in a similarly intimate scientific forum. Thus, both established investigators and trainees look-forward to this opportunity once every two years. As represented in our speaker/chair list, we have been attentive to gender diversity with a strong representation of outstanding women researchers. We have further made limited progress on the representation of accomplished minority researchers presenting talks. The attendance of young scientists has always been encouraged and in recognition of this, the GRC Board of Trustees has provided resources for a second IF Gordon Research Seminar, which will precede the Conference and will be organized by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. All applicants are invited to present posters describing their latest research and a number of platform presentations will be chosen from the submitted abstracts in order to ensure inclusion of the latest breakthroughs during the formal sessions.
Recent biomedical research has shown that a large number of human diseases ranging from skin disorders to dilated cardiomyopathy and premature aging diseases are caused by mutations in specific intermediate filament proteins. Intermediate Filaments (IF) are comprised of cytoskeletal and nucleoskeletal proteins that play a key role in determining cell shape and nuclear architecture;they are also involved in the modulation and propagation of signals within cells and in the regulation of cell motiltiy. The 2014 Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Intermediate Filaments, together with the pre-meeting Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) will bring together leaders in the field, junior researchers, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to discuss their most recent findings and provide a better understanding of the normal functions of IF and will shed light on how their defective functions contribute to human disease.