The famous Richard Axel kicked off the last day in Vienna by presenting new data on how olfactory information is projected from the olfactory bulb to the cortex. After his keynote lecture, the talks in the plenary session continued with a focus on the brain and how it drives behaviour in different circumstances or environments and in different organisms – we watched flies, mice, fish and worms as they (mis)behaved. Especially David Anderson‘s movies of aggressive flies and mice had a certain entertainment value!
In the afternoon I found it hard to make a decision which of the five concurrent sessions to go to. I would have liked to attend the RNA session, Asymmetric Cell Division and Quantitative Principles of Morphogenesis, all at the same time! Since I had interviewed Eric Wieschaus and Marcos González-Gaitán at lunchtime, I picked their session on morphogenesis. I’ll be posting their insightful discussion here on The Node soon.
The session turned out to be a very good choice, full of fascinating movies of developing embryos. Eric Wieschaus talked about the mechanisms Drosophila embryos deploy to form two different kinds of folds during gastrulation: transient epithelial folds versus permanent internalisation, the latter ultimately leading to the epithelial-mesenchymal transition. How planar cell polarity is re-oriented during development of the fly wing was the focus of Frank Jülicher‘s talk, and Marcos González-Gaitán presented their impressive quantitative analysis and modelling of how growth is regulated by the DPP gradient in the developing fly wing. Benny Shilo continued the fly theme with their analysis of the mechanism that establishes the sharp Dorsal gradient in the early embryo.
The two final speakers represented the growing number of vertebrate researchers addressing questions of morphogenesis in a quantitative manner. Martin Behrndt, a PhD student in Carl-Philipp Heisenberg‘s lab, talked about the process of the squamous epithelium spreading over the yolk cell during zebrafish gastrulation, and how they took a biophysical and modelling approach to decipher this mechanism. Alexander Aulehla ended the session by presenting a quantitative live-imaging system to tackle the question of the oscillations of gene expression during somitogenesis in mouse.
All in all, I found the meeting very enjoyable. The evening events made it easy to socialise and network, and the scientific programme was at a very high level. The size of the meeting sometimes made it hard to pick one of the parallel sessions, but I think that’s a good problem, when there are simply too many interesting talks on offer! I’ll definitely try to be there in Nice in 2012.