A fundamental characteristic of multicellular organisms is the ability to activate a gene-encoded cell suicide program called programmed cell death (PCD). PCD serves many important functions in animal development and homeostasis, such as sculpting body structures, deleting unneeded structures, adjusting cell numbers, and eliminating abnormal, misplaced, nonfunctional, or harmful cells. The pathogenesis of many diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, is attributed to the malfunctioning of PCD. Apoptosis, the most common form of PCD, is characterized by a conserved sequence of morphological, cellular, biochemical and molecular events. A key feature of apoptosis is the activation of a unique family of cysteine aspartyl proteases called caspases. Caspases are synthesized as inactive proenzymes, which work together in a precisely controlled proteolytic cascade to activate themselves and one another. Downstream of this activational cascade, caspases cleave a variety of regulatory and structural proteins and important enzymes, targeting the cell for destruction by disassembling its contents. However, a critical mass of data indicates that apoptotic caspases are also involved in a variety of nonapoptotic processes. On the other hand, PCD can sometimes proceed in the absence of caspase activity, through alternative cell death pathways.
In the past few years, much effort has been given to generate compounds that can target specific components of the apoptotic machinery. Of high interest is the fact that the two main pathways that are being targeted (BCL2 and IAP family proteins) were initially unraveled in C. elegans and Drosophila, respectively, in a developmental context. Importantly, much of the core of the apoptotic machinery and many of the signaling pathways have been conserved throughout animal evolution. Nevertheless, recently, we have evidenced a concerning trend of giving preponderance to translational studies over basic research. Therefore, there is a growing need for a meeting that will establish interactions and exchange of ideas among scientists coming from both disciplines (basic and translational).
The conference will be under the umbrella of the International Cell Death Society (ICDS). The ICDS is a nonprofit organization attempting to promulgate basic research and translational studies on the broad topic of cell death. The ICDS has been established more than 20 years ago, and its annual meeting (each year in a different country) is the most important event sponsored by the society, with the aim of promoting the interactions and collaborations between scientists working in various subspecialty fields of cell death. Finally, the Israeli Society for Developmental Biology (IsSDB) will join in the first day of the conference (June 18th, 2017). On one hand, this will draw the attention of developmental biologists (interested in cell death as part of their developmental research paradigm) to the current challenges in the cell death field; while on the other hand, it will bring to discussion out-of-the-box ideas and nontraditional thinking.