Home Programme » Parallel Sessions
Parallel SessionsIn addition to plenary lectures, speed talks and poster sessions, a core part of the FEBS 2024 scientific programme will be a range of 'symposia' – identified by the Scientific Programme Board as important and stimulating topics – offered in four parallel streams (further enriched by sessions organized by young scientists and special sessions). Each symposium is expected to comprise talks from invited leading researchers as well as additional short presentations selected from submitted abstracts, allowing a focused look at progress, approaches, and challenges in key topics. Brief introductions to the sessions are added below.
Methods and progress in structural biology – part AThe outstanding development of current biochemical and biophysical methods, coupled with the power of molecular biology and ultrafast computing, has allowed structural biology to study macromolecular systems of increasing complexity. The insights afforded by X-ray crystallography, high-field NMR, cryo-electron microscopies and simulative approaches suggest that a thorough understanding of the structural and mechanistic rules of biology and biochemistry require an integrative approach. In this way, issues such as the complexity of multimolecular assemblies, the availability of limiting samples, the linkage between dynamics and activity, and the achievement of ‘impossible experiments’ synergize to yield the most complete picture of a given molecular process or system. The advanced methods of structural biology shed new light on fundamental cell processes, rationalize macromolecular recognition and interactions, characterize the molecular bases of protein dysfunction and disease, and drive concepts in the design of innovative drugs.
Cuttingedge approaches for sustainable and environmental biotechnologyThis environmental biotechnology session will offer a survey of state-of-the-art and cutting-edge research and innovative technologies for a sustainable biotechnology. Scientists and/or professionals in the field will present and discuss the most recent developments in this emerging biotechnological field, including the application of synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, innovative biotransformations towards green technologies, biobased manufacturing, fuel-based plastic replacements, environmental bioremediation, building-blocks, biomolecules, and biopolymers biosynthesis exploiting eco-friendly processes. We are open to receive your contribution: open science and innovation will contribute to a tangible advance in the field, delivering new solutions and improving environmental conditions for a more sustainable way of life.
Biochemistry of physical activity and health – part A
A healthy lifestyle implies better ageing and a better response to pathological conditions. Physical exercise is a pillar of a healthy lifestyle. This session will provide deep insights into the role of physical exercise in slowing down the multi-organ loss of function physiologically associated with ageing, and in preventing a wide spectrum of modern chronic degenerative diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, dysmetabolic syndromes or neurodegenerative diseases. Particular attention will be paid to the molecular modifications and beneficial metabolic pathways that are induced by aerobic and high intensity exercise and can slow the progression of oncological and non-oncological chronic diseases. The session will offer a multifaceted overview of the latest breakthroughs from clinical trials, preclinical studies and basic research showing the pleiotropic biochemical benefits that physical activity has on human well-being.
Genome editing and gene therapies – part A
Genomic engineering – the precision targeting and manipulation of specific regions within the genome – has historically been a costly and time-consuming endeavor. The emergence in the past decade of RNA-guided genome editing tools, mainly from bacterial Cas endonucleases, has ignited and set the bar for a revolution that is reshaping the landscape of genetic research and the potential for biotechnological and therapeutic interventions. In parallel to DNA-targeting tools, the field of programmable RNA editing is rapidly evolving, primarily aimed at mitigating the potential for off-target DNA effects. This session will explore some of the latest developments in these fields and how they are being applied for biotechnological and therapeutical purposes.
Translational proteomics covers all areas of proteomics using multi-disciplinary approaches to untangle complex physiological and pathological processes to accelerate the conversion of basic scientific knowledge into tests, treatments and practices that improve human health. The main goals of using proteomics in translational research include detecting disease in the early stages, predicting disease prognosis and identifying druggable targets for new therapeutics. The complexities of the task require a new level of collaboration among researchers, labs, and integration of various omics fields. Great progress has been made toward these goals over the past 20 years, and proteomics has been a powerful tool for providing information about a broad range of physiological processes, diseases, and clinical phenotypes.
Bio-based polymers for engineered 'green' materials
Pollution due to petrol-derived plastics is a serious issue for the health of the environment. Thus, bio-based materials represent a viable solution to this problem since they allow a reduction in crude-oil use and environmental waste impact while providing new materials with tailored properties. In this session experts will talk about the exploitation of biopolymers from waste feedstocks with the aim to produce bio-based materials to replace, at least partially, the pollutant petroleum-based plastics under the perspective of circular economy.
Cancer epigenome and transcriptome
Epigenetics involves structural modifications of nucleic acids and histones such as DNA methylation, histone modification, and nucleosome modelling patterns, resulting in a different chromatin structure that ultimately may cause transcriptional reprogramming. Epigenetic changes are controlled by enzymes, known as writers, erasers, and readers, as well as by non-coding RNAs. Genetic, environmental, and metabolic stimuli that perturb the epigenetic homeostasis are often associated with cancer development and progression. Understanding how the epigenetics and cancer fields intersect is crucial for developing effective treatments and innovative therapies. This session will discuss new findings regarding the role of metabolism, genetic alterations, and environment in driving epigenetics changes. This session will report important findings in terms of novel technological applications such as spatial transcriptomics and proteomics, mass spectrometry, as well as genetic approaches. Finally, it will also propose new cancer treatments that by impacting cancer cell reprogramming, particularly at the metabolic level, would also rewire the cancer epigenome.
Biochemical strategies for cultural heritage
The increasing complexity of biochemistry is a crucial element that contributes to the remarkable interdisciplinary nature of this scientific field. Recently, biochemical techniques have gained momentum in the field of cultural heritage analysis. The investigation of the structure, function, and interaction of biomolecules with the environment represents just a few of the areas where biochemical research is progressing. This session will present some of the exciting new developments in this field.
Functional food and human health - part A
The importance of a balanced diet can’t be emphasized enough for a healthy lifestyle and well-being. The relationship between diet and onset of inflammation-based chronic degenerative diseases is now well-established knowledge and highlights how food components, beyond the nutritional value, could play a crucial role in their prevention. A growing interest in the bioactive compounds that characterize functional foods has recently emerged. Such bioactive compounds can effectively exert beneficial effects on human health by modulating redox-dependent signal transduction pathways and thus disrupt the self-feeding cycle between chronic inflammation, dysmetabolism and cell death. Understanding the molecular mechanisms by which functional foods and their bioactive compounds modify cell functions and improve human health and well-being is a challenge for the biochemical community and is crucial to define recommendations in terms of nutritional interventions and/or supplementation, also in combination with drugs.
Enzyme and cell therapies
Enzyme and cell-based therapies have risen in the last couple of decades as promising tools to tackle different types of diseases, from genetic metabolic disorders to several health issues (fibrosis, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and organ or tissue pathologies). In this session, challenges and well-established and new approaches in frontier research will show the innovative opportunities provided by the development of new targeted therapeutic strategies. From enzymes used as replacement therapy or as prodrugs, to engineered human cells that regenerate tissues or fight cancer, to exosomes mediating intercellular communication in health and disease, exciting developments in this wide field will be the focus of this session.
Long ncRNA and microRNA networks
Non-coding (nc) RNAs, such as microRNAs and long ncRNAs, are fascinating molecules with many implications for biochemical processes orchestrating physiological and pathological conditions. The long ncRNA and microRNA networks are a cutting-edge area of research to identify unique molecular signatures. What molecular mechanisms are responsible for those networks? How are these mechanisms regulated? This session will provide recent insights into these biochemical processes and their regulatory pathways in several situations, also approaching the state-of-the-art with single-cell genomics technologies and bioinformatics procedures. The recent advances in our comprehension of microRNAs and long ncRNAs are finally making ncRNA-based gene therapies a reality.
Enzyme engineering: the future is now
The fundamental function of enzymes in carrying out metabolism, cell duplication, and response to the environment of living organisms is the result of billion years of evolution that selected the fittest activities for optimal functions. Humans’ use of enzymes dates to the origin of biotechnologies, and potential growth in this field is still largely unexplored. The advent of innovative techniques to evolve tailored enzymes and of powerful methods of screening to select enzyme variants with novel activities unknown in nature is now opening a new era in enzyme engineering. Join us to discover the most recent findings in this field and how enzyme engineering can help your research and your business.
Biochemistry of physical activity and health – part B
Humanity’s health and well-being is the endpoint of all human activities, and well-being is the result of a dynamic interplay between physical and mental health. In the biochemical context, well-being is the result of an intricate network of dynamic pathways that include the maintenance of spatial compartmentalization, the preservation of homeostasis over time and the compendium of responses to stress stimuli. Alteration in the dynamics of one of these features results in loss of health. The evidence that physical activity has a crucial role in the fulfilment of health homeostasis has been consolidated in recent decades. However, the characterization of biomolecular mechanisms supporting the associations between physical activity, health maintenance and disease prevention are not completely understood. This session will focus on recent findings and methodological developments aiming to advance the understanding of well-being homeostasis with a special focus on the role of physical activity.
Targeting metabolism in cancer
The complex metabolic pathways of cells work together to convert food into energy and chemical compounds. Cancer cells often abandon the efficient energy-producing pathways used by healthy cells and shift to alternative strategies that enhance anabolism, mandatory to allow proliferation of the neoplasm. In addition, cancer cells and their microenvironment including the stroma, the vascular component and the immune infiltrate, are linked by multiple cross talks that allow the adaptation of the cancer cells to unfavorable conditions such as hypoxia, nutrient deprivation, cytotoxicity induced by radio- and chemo-therapy, as well as host immune system recognition. In this session, internationally recognized speakers will discuss the complexity of the metabolic changes that occur during tumor progression and acquisition of malignancy, as well as the metabolic circuits established between the tumor cell and the microenvironment leading to the selection of more aggressive and therapy-resistant clones.
Post-translational modification of membrane proteins
Virtually all proteins can undergo post translational modifications (PTMs) and it is nowadays well established that, in eukaryotes, a large number of different PTMs influence the structures and functions of many proteins, thus increasing the functional diversity of the proteome. Despite the magnitude of such a phenomenon, as demonstrated by the huge number of available raw proteomic data, a profound knowledge of mechanisms and effects of PTMs on protein biology is still limited, especially in the case of membrane proteins. Indeed, this large group of macromolecules, whose crucial roles in cell function and pathophysiology are well assessed, is characterized by a naturally high hydrophobicity which delayed the development and advancement of their experimental studies. Thanks to the last decade’s progress in tools for membrane protein handling, data on this scientific area is exponentially increasing. Eminent examples of “PTMs of membrane proteins” are the objects of our session. This theme will represent a hot topic in biochemistry and molecular biology.
Towards sustainable use of natural and renewable resources
As environmental biotechnology is rapidly gaining relevance for the sustainable development of our future society, we invite you to join the discussion with the key actors in the field that will contribute to this parallel session by sharing the forefront innovations they are developing. You will be hearing about cutting-edge research and innovative technologies that will contribute to the shift towards a circular and sustainable development, aiming to mitigate the impact of anthropogenic activities on climate changes. Topics include, but are not limited to, environmental bioremediation, plastics recycling/upcycling, bio-polymers synthesis, consolidate bioprocessing, artificial intelligence applied to environmental biotechnology, circular carbon economy from C1 building blocks, and much more!
Biosensors are molecular devices based on the binding specificity of a biological macromolecule, whose activity is exploited for the recognition of a target molecule (analyte) of diagnostic interest. The binding event is coupled to the generation of a biophysical signal proportional to the concentration of the analyte in solution. Biosensors have a wide range of applications, including drug discovery, monitoring disease markers, detecting environmental contaminants, and analyzing body fluids. The design and development of biosensors is guided by an integrated approach of biochemistry and structural biology, aimed to a fine-tuning of the functional biological activity to find optimal conditions for an accurate and reproducible detection. This session will report exciting results on the engineering of innovative biosensors, on the rationale behind the molecular design of such devices, as well as on the future perspectives in the field.
Digital twins for precision medicine
Computational methods have long been gaining relevance as tools for simulating and making inferences on biological systems. Current advances on both the technological and algorithmic sides, including new hardware architectures and AI-based methods, make it a real possibility to develop computational systems that are effectively supportive of clinical decisions in precision medicine. Using patient-specific molecular data coupled to the patient's clinical history, a patient digital twin can be developed and used in personalized diagnosis and in safe in silico pre-testing of pharmacological treatments. The session will present recent developments in the use of computational methods for analyzing, integrating, modeling and simulating complex biological systems of relevance for human health.
G-protein coupled receptor-mediated nutrient sensing
Growing evidence draws attention to the unconventional roles of nutrients and metabolic intermediates as extracellular signalling molecules. Nutrient-sensing G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) trigger different downstream signalling pathways upon binding to diet-derived nutrients, microbiota-synthesized molecules, or metabolic intermediates. Depending on the specific metabolite and cognate receptor, cell target and microenvironmental context, nutrient-induced GPCR engagement culminates in different pathophysiological effects. Given the involvement of nutrient-sensing GPCRs in a wide spectrum of diseases that includes metabolic disorders, inflammation and cancer, their targeting is emerging as a novel promising therapeutical approach.
Functional food and human health – part B
Functional foods have a significant impact on human health by providing specific benefits beyond basic nutrition and are becoming increasingly recognized as a tool in the prevention of chronic diseases. The benefits of functional foods arise from the presence of various bioactive compounds, also known as nutraceuticals, that act synergistically to positively modulate the molecular mechanisms involved in the onset and progression of different pathological conditions. The session will allow an insight into recent discoveries with a special focus on nutraceuticals, their bioavailability and effects on cell metabolism and protective roles against development of chronic diseases.
Genome editing and gene therapy – part B
Gene therapy has historically been defined as the addition of new genes to human cells to treat, prevent or cure a disease or medical disorder. However, the recent emergence of genome editing technologies has enabled a new paradigm in which the sequence of the human genome can be precisely manipulated to achieve a therapeutic effect. This includes the correction of disease-causing mutations, the addition of therapeutic genes at specific sites in the genome and the removal of harmful genes or genome sequences. Recently, we witnessed exciting developments in gene editing technologies and their application to treat a wide range of diseases and disorders. Rapid advances in the field are likely to continue to lead to new technologies that will broaden the scope of genome editing and contribute to render these treatments more reliable.
Methods and progresses in structural biology – part B
Structural biology sheds light on the mechanism of action of macromolecules at the atomic level. Our understanding of biochemical phenomena is based on results and advancements in this field. The development of novel methods and approaches for macromolecular structure determination and analysis is paving the way to a deeper understanding of the dynamics of cellular function and to powerful tools to design and improve therapeutics and diagnostics for targeted therapies. The progress in the field, which in the last five years has brought structural information to a higher level of complexity, relies on novel methods, such as cryo-electron microscopy and powerful IA-based computational methods. The combination of crystallography, microscopy, solution methods and computer simulations in the integrative structural biology approach is achieving an unprecedented level to directly investigate life in action at the atomic level.
Redox biochemistry plays a pivotal role in numerous biological processes. Though cellular respiration and photosynthesis are the most studied fundamental redox processes, also very relevant are antioxidant defence mechanisms, generation of radicals in signalling processes, response to stress, DNA repair and synthesis. Understanding the fine mechanisms in redox biochemistry also allows important biotechnological applications: production of renewable energy (biofuels), breakdown of pollutants by engineered redox enzymes (bioremediation), biosynthesis of pharmaceuticals (biocatalysis), development of biosensors (medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring and food safety) and many more. This session will draw presentations on multifaceted aspects of both fundamental and applied redox biochemistry.
Biochemistry for drug repurposing
Drug repurposing, or drug repositioning, identifies new uses for existing drugs initially developed for different conditions. This approach expedites drug development by utilizing established safety and pharmacokinetic data, reducing the time and resources required for preclinical and early clinical trials. This accelerates new treatment development, addressing unmet medical needs and conditions lacking effective therapies. This session will showcase exciting discoveries in drug repurposing, encompassing the identification of new therapeutic applications, elucidating molecular mechanisms, and exploring the diverse implications for medical treatments.
The D-side of health: D-amino acids in pathological states
It's been a long time since D-amino acids were considered “the wrong isoforms”. In the last few decades, their role in several key biological processes has been acknowledged. Beside this, increasing evidence supports the involvement of dysfunctions in their metabolism in severe pathological states, including age-related neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric disorders, chronic kidney diseases and cancer. Furthermore, the potential of D-amino acids as biomarkers, as well as therapeutic agents has recently been reported. We invite you to follow us on the journey through the recent discoveries that reveal the lights and shadows in amino acids D-side.
Liquid–liquid phase separation
Liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) is a physicochemical process through which proteins and nucleic acids form liquid droplets with a phase distinct from the surrounding liquid cellular solution. Starting from the pioneering finding by Antony Hyman in 2009 that germline P granules in the one-cell embryo of C. elegans are liquid droplets, it has become increasingly clear that many membraneless organelles present in biology consist of liquid droplets forming though LLPS. It is a principle for explaining the precise spatial and temporal regulation in living cells by a precise compartmentalization of proteins and nucleic acids into these species, which play a variety of biological functions. This session will describe the process of LLPS in biochemistry, the resulting membraneless organelles, their associated biological functions, and how the cell regulates formation and dissolution of these species.
Impacts of climate change on nutrition and health
Climate change and the increasing interest in sustainability issues resulted in an increased interest for healthy, sustainable, and personalized nutrition. The answer to these concerns often involves changes in the nature and characteristics of raw materials and modification of food processing treatments. Both have a direct impact on human nutrition as they affect macro- and micronutrients supply, intake and bioavailability, as well as for the presence or formation – of new bioactive compounds. The development of foods addressing the concerns mentioned above may result in changes in the nature of the interactions between the various components in the food matrix as well as the behavior of components of physiological interest (for better or worse). In this frame, various biochemical points require investigation, particularly addressing the structural modification of macromolecules and the many roles they may play, along with improved molecular-based knowledge of the interactions among food components and of the mechanisms that may help fulfil emerging nutritional expectations.
From brain molecules to brain functions and diseases
In the past few decades, it has been increasingly evident that the nervous system maintains a great degree of plasticity not only during development and differentiation of the neuronal network, but also in the adulthood. Most of the events at the heart of plasticity involve post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression and are based on a cohort of RNA-binding proteins, microRNAs, and long non-coding RNAs. Recently, it has been appreciated that all brain cells produce and release extracellular vesicles, which carry proteins and RNAs, and notably also bioactive lipids. The latter molecules are key signals within the nervous system, where they support normal cell-to-cell communications and resolve inflammation during neurodegenerative diseases. This session will address all these molecular mechanisms that are at the basis of brain functions and diseases.
The marine environment is a rich source of biological and chemical diversity. So far, several bioactive compounds, new biomaterials and enzymes have been isolated from marine organisms, relevant in drug discovery due to their molecular complexity and privileged structures. More than a third of recently approved medicines are natural products or derived from compounds found in marine organisms. Marine biodiversity is also a precious source of new materials, based on extracellular matrix proteins and/or biominerals with unique properties and wide application fields in biomedicine and in industrial biotechnology. In this session we will focus on different research approaches aiming to characterise biomolecules from marine biodiversity with applicative purposes. The speakers will present new insight on i) the biochemical processes for a complete biodiscovery pipeline of new bioactive compounds and enzymes, and ii) the molecular characterization of marine biopolymers for industrial and biomedical application.