Report on the 8th Y-ECCO Basic Science Workshop
Gianluca Pellino, Y-ECCO Member
© Gianluca Pellino
For another year, unexpectedly, the Y-ECCO Basic Science Workshop had to be an online-only event, as the uncertainties related to the status of the pandemic caused the ECCO Congress 2022 to be changed into a virtual event. However, the workshop participants showed clearly that this did not affect their enthusiasm.
The Y-ECCO Basic Science Workshop aims to provide attendees with novel IBD research insights, with a specific focus on basic science and translational research, by means of active participation of young investigators, who can present their works, and a senior faculty of opinion leaders in the field. Everything happens in a relaxed and friendly environment. The virtual nature of this year’s event slightly undermined the usual verve associated with previous face-to-face meetings, but we have sadly become increasingly used to remote participation, and the joy of being part of another excellent event and the kindness of the invited experts contributed in ensuring the success of the workshop. In this context, ‘success’ means fruitful ongoing interactions, debates and exchanges of ideas, notwithstanding the physical distance between delegates, and hopefully the workshop will help participants in advancing their career path.
In addition, the online platform used allowed for live comments to be posted, facilitating brainstorming and discussions following each presentation; the fantastic social media coverage (which was a powerful tool to disseminate the content of the entire ECCO Congress) truly rendered the event engaging for a global audience, including patients and stakeholders.
The 8th Y-ECCO Basic Science Workshop took place on Wednesday, February 16 and the theme this year was “IBD Under Pressure”. Session 1, “New Challenges in Immunology”, chaired by Charlotte Hedin (Sweden) and Niklas Björkström (Sweden), was opened by Johan Burisch (Denmark), who kicked off the day. Niklas Björkström was the first on the virtual stage, guiding the attendees through a COVID-19 Immune Atlas, showing how the immunological mechanisms observed during the SARS-CoV-2 infection could pave the way for novel research lines focused on different immune cells. COVID-19 understandably represented the focus of several talks at this workshop. Three abstracts were presented during the first session. Hadar Meringer (USA) reported on the long-lasting effects of the viral infection on myeloid and lymphoid cells in the intestinal mucosa after recovery from COVID-19, suggesting that the persistence of innate and adaptive immune cells abnormalities can have major implications for understanding of the pathogenesis of long-term COVID sequelae. After a vivid discussion with the speaker, the session moved on to another abstract presentation by Judith Wellens (Belgium), which focused on functional viral neutralisation responses after SARS-CoV-2 infection in IBD patients receiving infusion therapies, using data from the ICARUS-IBD Consortium. This study found that combination therapy with infliximab and thiopurine was associated with the greatest reduction in SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibody capacity in IBD patients; as compared with healthy controls, the latter had reduced functional neutralising capacity and reduced IgG response to all antigens. The last speaker of the first session was Beverley Rodger (United Kingdom), who presented an abstract on an intestine-derived ex-Trm population in the blood of IBD patients compared with healthy individuals. Variation in this newly identified population was observed between IBD patients and controls, and, as gut ex-Trm showed selective reduction in Crohn’s Disease, the authors hypothesise that they could link areas of inflammation in these patients.
After a break from the online platform, the workshop resumed with Session 2, “Predicting the Future”, chaired by Bram Verstockt (Belgium) and Philip Rosenstiel (Germany), who gave a talk exploring the future of “precise medicine” in IBD. The talk covered several aspects of recent innovations in multi-omics, presenting the potential advantages of and current barriers to implementation, and advocating for future collaborations and further research to overcome these obstacles. Three abstracts were then presented. The first, presented by Arno Bourgonje (the Netherlands), dealt with characterisation of the serum antibody epitope repertoire in IBD using high-throughput phage-displayed immunoprecipitation sequencing. The authors found that antibody repertories can discriminate between Crohn’s Disease patients (who show an anti-flagellin antibody signature) and healthy controls. The second abstract of the afternoon was presented by Nassim Hammoudi (France). This study investigated intestinal lymphoepithelial interactions in Crohn's Disease by modeling alphaE-beta7 and NKG2D blockade. It was reported that cells expressing CD103 and NKG2D were associated with the inflammatory activity of the disease, which showed an active role in the deleterious effect of mucosal lymphocytes on epithelial cells. Then, Naomi Karmi (the Netherlands) reported on single-cell analysis of gut mucosal and peripheral blood cells in Ulcerative Colitis patients undergoing vedolizumab treatment, showing that the response rate to the drug is higher in anti-TNF-naïve patients.
Session 3, “How to Get Published”, was chaired by Johan Burisch and Laurence Egan (Ireland), Editor in Chief of the Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis, the official publication of ECCO. Laurence Egan opened the session with his talk “Getting published!”, providing useful tips on how to develop a career in medical investigation and to produce manuscripts that are relevant, appropriately designed and attractive for readers and journal editors. Two abstracts were then presented: the first, by Neil Chanchlani (United Kingdom), dealt with a proteomic analysis of the PANTS cohort to identify the mechanisms of anti-TNF treatment failure in patients with Crohn’s Disease. The authors found that it was difficult to replicate proteomics biomarkers and that optimal outcome definitions for treatment response are uncertain, suggesting considering replicable methods across multiple sites. The last speaker to present was Simona Bertoni (Italy), with an abstract on CCR6 blockade as a novel therapeutic strategy against IBD. This study found that MR120 and MR452 (through interference with CCL20-CCR6) could participate in hindering gut homing of effector leucocytes and in mitigating their effects in chronic gut inflammation.
The workshop was closed by Johan Burisch, who announced the recipients of the Y-ECCO Best Abstract Awards 2022: Laura Constable (OP20), Simeng Lin (OP22), Vincent Jourstra (OP29), Hadar Meringer (DOP19), and Tessa Straatmijer (DOP75). Take the time to have a look at their abstracts in the ECCO 2022 abstract book.
In summary, the Y-ECCO Committee and the participants really missed the in-person interactions, but the workshop was a diverse and global platform which provided useful learning points and areas for development that will hopefully contribute in facilitating research in IBD. The team look forward to the first, face-to-face Y-ECCO Mentorship Forum (Vienna, June 2022) and, obviously, to welcoming everyone to the 9th Y-ECCO Basic Science Workshop at ECCO 2023 – a very promising programme lies ahead! Stay tuned, and see you (in person) in Copenhagen!
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