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Gordon Research Conference — Neural Crest and Cranial Placodes

14th April 2019   -   19th April 2019
Lucca (Barga), Italy


This conference uniquely considers all aspects of research into the neural crest and cranial placodes, and their extraordinary array of derivatives. Neural crest cells form all peripheral glia, all peripheral autonomic and enteric neurons and most peripheral somatosensory neurons, as well as adrenal chromaffin cells, pigment cells, craniofacial cartilages and bones, the dentine-producing odontoblasts of teeth, the aorticopulmonary septum of the heart, and the ciliary muscles and corneal endothelium of the eye. Neural crest defects underlie many birth defects and diseases, including congenital craniofacial anomalies and heart defects, and enteric nervous system disorders such as Hirschsprung disease. The reactivation of developmental processes such as epithelial-mesenchymal transition is important for cancer progression; indeed, some of the most aggressive cancers, including melanoma and neuroblastoma, arise from neural crest-derived cells. Placodes form the paired peripheral sense organs (olfactory, otic, lateral line, plus the eye lenses), as well as afferent neurons for taste-buds and the visceral organs, hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons (required for fertility, since they trigger puberty) and the endocrine anterior pituitary gland, essential for homeostasis. Their clinical significance includes congenital deafness, congenital hypopituitarism, and the combined anosmia and infertility of Kallmann syndrome, while the fish lateral line is a model for hair cell development, regeneration, and screening for drugs that protect against ototoxic drugs. Recent advances in generating both neural crest and placode derivatives from human stem cells are highly promising avenues for future approaches to regenerative medicine. The conference aims to bring together diverse scientists from across the spectrum of this broad research field and using a variety of model systems, in order to exchange unpublished data and novel approaches, form new collaborations, and mentor junior scientists, in an informal, supportive environment. Sessions are designed to promote interaction between scientists focused on basic mechanisms and those with a more clinical focus.

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