The proposed meeting on Glia in Health & Disease will be held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory from July 21-25 2016. The goal of this conference is to provide an active forum for exchange of results in the rapidly advancing fields of glial biology and neuron-glia interactions. Glial cells comprise a diverse group of non-neuronal cells that are essential for nervous system development, circuit function, and neurological disease. These cells perform many supportive roles, such as controlling extracellular ion and neurotransmitter levels, providing neurons with energy sources, and unsheathing axons to enable rapid transmission of action potentials with minimal metabolic cost. The development of advanced genetic tools is beginning to define the molecular events that establish and maintain these crucial interactions, providing new targets for therapeutic manipulation. In addition, recent studies suggest that glial cells can play a much more active role in modulating the function of neural circuits; glial cells express receptors for neurotransmitters and can release retroactive compounds that influence neural firing and synaptic plasticity. Nevertheless, the conditions required to activate different types of glial cells and induce the release of neuromodulators are not well understood. Glia also help the CNS recover from injury and disease by forming glial scars, by engulfing dying neurons and debris, and by regenerating lost cells. However, glia can undergo reactive changes that compromise their ability to adequately support neurons, or in some cases promote further destruction. The mechanisms that control these changes and the consequences of their altered behavior in disease and injury are just beginning to be defined. It has become clear that many gene mutations linked to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are also expressed in glia, and genetic manipulation studies are beginning to reveal how these mutations alter glial cell function and contribute to disease. This meeting will highlight the latest developments obtained through studies of both invertebrate and vertebrate model systems and provide exposure to technological advances in genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, and high-resolution imaging. Using the goals and format of the five prior extremely successful meetings as a guide, we plan to 1) assemble an international meeting of scientists engaged in studies of glial biology and neuron-glia interactions; 2) discuss new and exciting developments in the field by selecting talks from openly submitted abstracts on the basis of scientific merit; 3) provide an opportunity for junior scientists of diverse backgrounds to present their data and engage in scientific discourse with more established investigators; and 4) promote collaborative interactions to accelerate the pace of discovery and identify novel approaches to treat diseases of the nervous system.
Nervous system function depends on the coordinated activity of both neurons and glial cells. New developments in molecular genetics, invertebrate manipulation, and in vivo imaging are revealing how distinct classes of glial cells contribute to brain development, plasticity, and disease. Through their ability to modulate the structure and function of the nervous system, glial cells represent a largely untapped resource for the development of novel therapeutics to treat diseases of the nervous system and promote repair following trauma. This biennial international conference (which began in 2006) will bring together the leading experts and trainees in glial biology and provide a forum for these scientists to interact and share their latest discoveries.