Why Brain Matter Matters: Navigating Neurodegeneration: LMPSU’s Most Successful Conference Yet


By Jenni Bozec

On Saturday, January 13, many braved the wintery weather to attend the “Why Brain Matter Matters: Navigating Neurodegeneration” conference organized by the LMPSU (Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology undergraduate Student Union). The event proved to be a resounding success, drawing a diverse crowd of well over 400 attendees, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, members of the public and alumni.

The LMPSU chose the topic to shed light on the intricate world of neurodegeneration, a pressing issue in contemporary biomedical and clinical research. The conference was designed to allow speakers and attendees to delve into the complexities of brain matter and the challenges posed by neurodegenerative disorders in a way that was accessible to a broad audience.

The conference featured a diverse array of speakers from the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto who are leading researchers in the field of neurodegeneration. The day kicked off with Dr. Gabor Kovacs who explained the background to Neuropathology and tauopathies, including his own research on neuropathology of neurodegenerative diseases to identify early biomarkers and therapy targets.

He was followed by Dr. Martin Ingelsson on “Development of novel therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease”. Dr. Carmela Tartaglia presented her research on the role played by repeated concussions on the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. Dr. Karun Singh spoke on “Applications of human neural organoids to study neurological disorders”, then Dr. Olga Rojas examined how what was happening in our gut can affect our brain. Dr. Jeehye Park then discussed her research in using mouse models to identify the early events in ALS pathogenesis.

The final speaker of the day, Dr Michael Pollanen, focussed on the human cost of neurodegenerative conditions. Using his research on Nodding Syndrome in Uganda as a framework, he brought home the effect neurodegeneration can have on families and communities. He also tasked the young research students in the room with ensuring that their future research challenges the status quo of focussing on those diseases affecting white individuals of European descent in the field of brain research.

The conference successfully created a dynamic space for learning and understanding. LMPSU Co-President Rachelle Lee said, “It has been seven months of hard work so now it is great to see it finally come to life. I love seeing all these amazing researchers able to share their knowledge with the audience in this way”. LMPSU External Affairs Officer, Linus Schweizer, added, “The conference is a fantastic learning experience and an opportunity to meet like-minded students and faculty. It gets a broad range of people together under one roof where we can discuss really important topics like this. We’re such a great research institution but it can be a little intimidating – this was an opportunity for undergraduate students to access these expert researchers and get inspired.”

LMPSU’s meticulous planning and hard work were evident in the seamless execution of the conference. Speaker, Dr. Pollanen, commented, “I can’t believe this conference was organised by undergraduate students. It was so well run and they managed to attract an excellent range of speakers and a broad audience. They’ve worked incredibly hard, and it shows, I was very impressed.”

Dr. Jeff Lee, undergraduate co-ordinator of the LMP Specialist Program, commented, “I am always very impressed by our undergraduate students and what they can achieve but I think this year they excelled. The turnout and engagement for this conference has been fantastic and shows what a great platform it is for engaging undergraduate students and many others with the incredible research happening at the University of Toronto. I can’t wait to see what they do next year!”

Repair & Recovery: Facets of Fibrosis (Jan 2018)

LMPSU Presents, Repair & Recovery: Facets of Fibrosis – Post-Conference Summary

Each year, the Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Student Union (LMPSU) executive team presents a research conference that allows attendees to learn about the most current and cutting edge research in biomedical science from experts in the field. On January 13th, the LMPSU held its 6th annual research conference, titled Repair and Recovery: Facets of Fibrosis. This year, the conference invited 7 renowned researchers within the field of fibrotic disease to join us at the University of Toronto. Throughout the day, we heard great talks from each speaker about their work, ranging from fibrosis in the kidneys to the lungs, as well as molecular mechanisms underlying fibrotic processes, pertinent in understanding the key targets for promoting healthy wound healing.

Despite a sudden drop in temperature, the conference kicked off as scheduled at 9 AM with attendees steadily trickling in. Guest speakers and attendees were greeted with warm beverages and breakfast and the conference officially began at 9:30 AM with an introduction from the LMPSU co-presidents, Negar Khosraviani and Ramana Trivedi. Our first two speakers, Dr. Boris Hinz and Dr. Mohit Kapoor, introduced the audience to the fundamental mechanisms underlying fibrotic disease. After a short break with refreshments, the conference returned with three talks on renal fibrosis. Dr. Darren Yuen discussed the importance of kidney stiffness as a marker for health and Dr. Jeffrey Dickhout presented research on chronic kidney disease in animal models. Following Dr. Dickhout’s talk, lunch was served in the Stone Lobby, accompanied by poster presentations from U of T graduate and undergraduate students. After lunch, the renal fibrosis segment came to an end as Dr. Andras Kapus presented his work on the role of transcription factors in regulating the cell cytoskeleton. The final segment was on pulmonary fibrosis and Dr. Kjetil Ask joined us in discussing the strategies for targeting macrophages in improving fibrotic disease of the lung. Our final speaker, Dr. Andrew Leask presented research on the interactions between microenvironment and chronic fibrosis disease. The conference came to a close as the LMPSU co-presidents thanked the guest speakers, volunteers and attendees for joining us to listen to these captivating talks on fibrosis.

The LMPSU would like to thank all our guest speakers for taking the time to share some great insights from their current research with us. We also would like to thank the LMP department and volunteers for their help and support in organizing this year’s conference. Finally, we express sincere gratitude to all attendees of the event and we hope you enjoyed the poster presentations and talks from the conference. We hope to see you next year!

Moments from the Conference