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BioLegend at SfN, 2015
For neuroscientists, one of the biggest conferences of the year is held by the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). This year, SfN 2015 was hosted in Chicago at the McCormick Place from October 17th to the 21st, where there were over 29,000 attendees from about 80 countries. It was a great opportunity to find out about the latest research trends in the field, meet with colleagues and peers, and explore the newest products and technologies from different companies.
The scope of the conference was expansive with themes and topics that covered the following areas:
  • Development (including neurogenesis and gliogenesis, stem cells, etc.)
  • Neural Excitability, Synapses, and Glia: Cellular Mechanisms (neurotransmitters and signaling molecules, GPCRs and ion channels, etc.)
  • Disorders of the Nervous System (several neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s)
  • Novel Methods and Technology Development (staining, tracing, and imaging techniques, etc.)
  • Sensory and Motor Systems (pain, motor neurons, voluntary movements, etc.)
  • Integrative Systems: Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology and Homeostatic Challenge (including stress, biological rhythms and sleep, etc.)
  • Cognition and behavior (both human and animal models)
  • History, Teaching, Public Awareness, and Societal Impacts in Neuroscience
As you can imagine with so much ground to cover, there were a lot of exciting symposia, mini-symposia, meetings, lectures (more than 800 sessions in total) and poster sessions (over 13,000 posters!) going on concurrently, as is the case with every big conference. Although I had the opportunity to attend a few of these, it is hard to mention all of them here. So I’ll only talk about the two Presidential Special Lectures that I attended. One was by the Nobel laureate Dr. May-Britt Moser from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and the second was by Dr. Beth Stevens from the Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

A bird’s eye view of part of the exhibition hall in the foreground and poster session in the back.
Dr. Moser shared the 2014 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine with John O'Keefe for their work on grid cells in the medial entorhinal cortex which are important for determining one’s position and helps in navigation – kind of like the brain’s GPS system. She talked abut how they discovered the grid cells by implanting electrodes directly into a rat's hippocampus and recording action potentials fired by single cells in the rat brain as the animal ran freely in a large box chasing chocolate treats. Dr. Moser also talked about other cells that they discovered in the rat brain called border cells (that fire when the animal is close to borders of the proximal environment), head direction cells (providing metrics for distance and orientation) and speed cells (that work as an internal speedometer determining speed of the body). She showed both published and unpublished data while discussing how these cells interact with the environment, what mechanisms regulate firing of these cells, how they are organized, and how these cells are connected to a wider circuit for goal‑directed navigation. She ended her talk with a beautiful musical piece dedicated to her rats and their brain activity!

Dr. May-Britt Moser during her talk at the Presidential Special Lecture.
Dr. Stevens, on the other hand, talked about synaptic pruning in developing and diseased brains. She discussed the novel role of microglia and astrocytes in synaptic function and development, and how they are capable of engulfing less active synapses. Dr. Stevens talked about the molecular mechanisms for this process involving the complement cascade proteins such as C1q and C3. Astrocyte-mediated activation of C1q results in downstream activation of C3b, which then preferentially binds to less active synapses, thus “tagging” them for elimination by microglia through complement receptor 3 (CR3). She pointed out that microglia express an entire array of other receptors such as CX3CR1 (Fractalkine receptor), MEGF10 and MERTK receptors, which are essential in mediating synapse elimination. Her studies open up doors for future studies on protecting synapses in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, normal aging, and psychiatric disorders, all of which involve synapse loss.

Dr. Beth Stevens delivering her talk at the Presidential Special Lecture.
Over at the exhibition hall, at BioLegend’s booth, we also had a lot of interesting scientific discussions and Q&A with our customers. Many of you came by to say hello, while others got a chance to learn more about BioLegend and our products. As you may know, with our acquisition of Covance antibodies, we obtained over 1000 products for Neuroscience, Cell Biology, Epitope Tags, and IHC Detection. At the booth, we had our new Neuroscience brochure and microscopy brochure (for ICC and IHC), which have comprehensive lists of our current products. We also had a new Neurodegeneration poster and a lot of cool giveaways that most of you loved. For our scientific poster, we presented “MojoSort™, a versatile nanoparticle for magnetic isolation of CX3CR1+ microglia with high purity, yield and preserved functionality” where we talked about our magnetic separation system called MojoSort™ and our anti-mouse CX3CR1 antibody as an effective marker for microglial cells.
Customers at our BioLegend booth. Our scientific poster presentation.
And finally, Chicago was a great city to host SfN. Sitting by the Michigan River, Chicago is well known for its marvelous architecture, culture, food and history. And to top it all, the Windy City had a gorgeous 70°F temperature for most of the conference!
Chicago skyline over the Michigan River. The bean at the Millennium park.
We hope to see you next year at SfN 2016 in our hometown, San Diego. Please drop by our booth for a fun and interactive time. Let us know if you have any feedback from this year’s SfN at tech@biolegend.com.

See you next year at SfN 2016 in San Diego!
References:
  1. Society for Neuroscience
  2. Neuroscience: Brains of Norway
  3. Speedometer neurons discovered in rat brains
  4. Topography of head direction cells in medial entorhinal cortex
  5. Representation of geometric borders in the entorhinal cortex
  6. Microglia Function in Central Nervous System Development and Plasticity
  7. Complement C3-Deficient Mice Fail to Display Age-Related Hippocampal Decline

Contributed by Mohar Chattopadhyay, PhD.
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