UF conference attracts world’s leading muscle biology researchers

The University of Florida welcomed more than 300 researchers from around the world for the Advances in Skeletal Muscle Biology in Health and Disease conference March 8-10 in Gainesville.

Now in its 15th year, the biennial meeting has earned an international reputation as the premier meeting in adult skeletal muscle biology and has solidified UF’s standing as a muscle research epicenter, said conference co-chair Andrew Judge, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of physical therapy at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.

“The conference’s goal is to provide an environment where researchers from various areas of adult muscle biology and physiology converge to share recent findings and current thoughts in order to help facilitate advancements in the field,” Judge said. “For example, one may study muscle wasting in cancer, heart failure or COPD and be focused on mechanisms of protein degradation, but such diseases also disrupt muscle metabolism, function and structure. It is therefore critical that scientists studying disease-induced muscle wasting engage in meaningful dialogue with experts working in these other muscle areas.”

Dr. Kenneth Holmes

Conference organizers added a new feature to the meeting in 2017: a lecture given by a retired or senior researcher to describe the history of a particular area of scientific study. The inaugural lecture was presented by Kenneth Holmes, Ph.D., a molecular biologist who directed the department of biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Germany for 35 years. Holmes used X-ray diffraction as a method for studying muscle physiology. His work solved the structure of actin, a protein involved in many important cellular functions, including muscle contraction.

“His lecture received the first standing ovation in the history of the meeting,” Judge said.

The Advances in Skeletal Muscle Biology in Health and Disease conference also offers opportunities to engage young researchers.

“A major goal of the meeting is to make it ‘trainee friendly’ to help excite and energize the next wave of scientists,” Judge said.

Trainees receive reduced conference registration fees and pre- and postdoctoral trainees were selected to give short talks based on abstracts submitted for poster presentations, giving them an opportunity to gain experience in oral presentation that they may not receive elsewhere. The conference also offered three grant writing workshops featuring a presentation by a scientist experienced in reviewing grant applications, and a Q & A session with a panel composed of grant reviewers and awardees.

Advances in Skeletal Muscle Biology in Health and Disease is supported by several UF sponsors, including the Myology Institute and Wellstone Center, the colleges of Health and Human Performance, Medicine, and Public Health and Health Professions, the department of applied physiology and kinesiology, the department of physical therapy and the Office of Research. In addition, the conference received sponsorship support from multiple external sources including Abbott, the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes, Catabasis, Sarepta Therapeutics, Aurora Scientific, Summitt, Marathon Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, SomaLogic and The FEBS Journal.