Skirball Institute Older Symposia
From 1998 to 2008, scientists from around the world gathered at the Annual Research Symposium hosted by NYU Langone’s Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine to present on specific topics.
Inflammation and Host Defense—November 21, 2008
While it has been recognized for more than a century that the generation of an inflammatory response is critical for controlling invading pathogens, recent studies have shown that defective regulation of various branches of the immune system contributes not only to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, lupus, and Crohn's disease, but also to other diseases of great public health relevance, such as asthma, and several whose connection to the immune system and inflammation is only now being appreciated. Most prominent among these are atherosclerotic disease, type 2 diabetes, various cancers, and possibly Alzheimer's disease. In addition, strong immune responses to some viruses, such as SARS, influenza, RSV, and the hepatitis viruses can inflict more damage than the viruses themselves.
The symposium explored the latest understanding of how the immune system is regulated during health, the mechanisms whereby the immune system is aberrantly activated in disease, and how knowledge of these mechanisms is being exploited for the discovery of new classes of drugs for common diseases.
Genes, Environment, and Behavior—June 1, 2007
All of our behaviors, whether simple or complex, reflexive or contemplative, are determined by the function of synapses between neurons in our central nervous system. Defects in the formation or function of these synapses, as well as a failure to modify synaptic connections as a consequence of experience, can lead to profound behavioral disorders. The symposium presented a forum for understanding how the brain solves complex computational problems, essential for normal behavior, and how defects in this processing can lead to profound and striking behavioral disorders. Speakers discussed how the brain recognizes distinct objects in a complex visual environment, how maternal care and stress regulate behavior, how mutations in individual genes can lead to defects in neurogenesis and behavioral disorders resembling depression and schizophrenia, and how complex behaviors can be analyzed in a genetically tractable organism.
Stem Cells: From Biology to Therapy—May 12, 2006
Stem cell research has the potential to revolutionize medical care. Since stem cells can develop into any differentiated cell type, they instill hope in patients suffering from diseases like diabetes, spinal cord injury, or Parkinson’s disease, where cell replenishment may provide a cure. Despite all their promise, our knowledge of how stem cells maintain the potential for self-renewal and how they can be directed into a particular differentiation path is limited.
This year's symposium celebrated the inauguration of the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Center for Stem Cell Biology, which aims to contribute to this important field. Speakers focused on a variety of stem cell types found in plants and animals and discussed the unique aspects of stem cells that allow them to give rise to all the cells in the body and even to the cells of the next generation. Participants discussed more specialized stem or progenitor cells present in organ systems that can replenish cells in the nervous system and the blood. The symposium also explored cancer stem cells as being key in understanding tumor maintenance and metastasis, and their resistance to current chemotherapeutic modalities. As the symposium showed, fulfillment of the promise of stem cells for patient treatment will come from the study of model systems and the application of these findings to human health.
The Biology of Sex: From Genes to Behavior—June 17, 2005
Sex is among the most powerful forces driving evolution, genetic variability, and animal behavior. The symposium provided a forum for discussion of the molecular, cellular, and behavioral mechanisms underlying sexual reproduction. We examined the genetic basis for sex determination, as well as the factors responsible for maintaining germ cells (the ultimate stem cells) in a niche that safeguards the genetic material from generation to generation. We also explored the attractants, rituals, and neural circuits that create relationships, shape societies, and promote species survival. The symposium provided exciting new insights into the origins of sexual diversity and procreation.
Destruction and Renewal in Biological Systems—April 30, 2004
Destruction and renewal form a leitmotif throughout human literature, art, politics, culture—and biology. Under the aegis of this distinctly expansive theme, the symposium provided a forum for examining degradation, repair, remodeling, and regeneration at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. The talks covered a wide range of such remarkable processes as DNA repair, aging, cellular matrix remodeling, and limb regeneration.
Of special note was the Severo Ochoa Lecture, presented by Alfred Goldberg, PhD, on the topic of protein turnover. The Ochoa lectureship was established by Bernard Levine, PhD, and Joseph Schlessinger, PhD, in 1998 to honor Dr. Ochoa, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and then of Biochemistry at NYU Langone. Dr. Ochoa shared the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Arthur Kornberg of Stanford University for unraveling the mechanisms of the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid.
Past topics of our seminar series have also included the following presentations.
Molecular Machines—May 9, 2003
Synaptic Plasticity—May 10, 2002
Growth Control—January 19, 2001
Biomolecular Medicine in the Next Millennium—May 28, 1999
Molecular Pathogenesis in Immunity—October 23, 1998