Funding is requested in partial support of the 7th Biennial Conference of the American Society for Matrix Biology (ASMB), which is to be held from Oct. 12-15, 2014, in Cleveland, OH (ASMB2014). ASMB is a national society whose mission is to promote basic, translational, and clinical research on the extracellular matrix (ECM), cell-ECM interactions, and ECM-based therapies and devices, and to support professional development of the matrix biology research community. Its biennial conference provides an in-depth forum integrating new information on the genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, pathobiology, and translational relevance of all aspects of ECM. Additionally, this conference provides a continuum with cell biology and intracellular signaling via an emphasis on cell-ECM interactions and ECM-driven signaling. This all-encompassing, matrix-immersion aspect of the ASMB conference is lacking in large society conferences and is distinct from the single molecule- or process-focused conferences available to the ECM community, including Gordon, Keystone and FASEB conferences. ECM and matrix receptor gene mutations lead to inherited connective tissue disorders, skeletal dysplasias, muscular dystrophies and blistering skin diseases, and ECM dysregulation is universally a major factor in acquired diseases, both acute and chronic, affecting all organ systems. ECM is especially relevant to skin and the musculoskeletal system, where it is a primary component of bone, cartilage and tendons. Among acquired conditions, the pathology of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, aneurysms, cancer and metastasis involves ECM destruction, and all fibrotic conditions and aberrant wound healing feature an excess or dysregulated ECM. ASMB2014 has considerable translational relevance, especially to tissue repair and engineering, and provides the basic science foundation upon which to advance these fields. The ASMB Conference brings together scientists, clinician-scientists, post-doctoral trainees, and graduate students from diverse research fields and medical specialties to discuss the most recent advances in ECM biology and their relevance to human disease. The exciting 3-day program comprises a keynote address on protein phosphorylation by Dr. Jack Dixon, five plenary sessions and 18 concurrent sessions on focused topics that provide many opportunities for short talks by trainees. In addition to advancement of the matrix biology field, ASMB2014 demonstrates a commitment to providing opportunities for in-training and women matrix biologists and has specific mentoring components. These goals and activities of ASMB2014 are fully consistent with the mission of NIH and the intent of the R13 mechanism.
Extracellular matrix (ECM) is the inanimate material that lies between cells, and binds them together. It is also the major component of key structural tissues in the human body, namely cartilage, tendons and bone. Cells interact with ECM through specific molecules. Collectively, ECM and the cell-ECM interactions constitute vital ingredients of living tissues, without which the body cannot function properly, and they are frequently perturbed in genetic and acquired diseases, including arthritis, fibrosis, cancer and osteoporosis. The 2014 conference of the American Society for Matrix Biology covers all aspects of ECM and cell-ECM interaction biology and their disease relevance without bias for specific diseases or organ systems. It serves as a major forum for sharing the latest information and for training and mentoring of young scientists in these fields. Because an ASMB conference is held only every other year, it is crucial for progress in this important field.