Workshop on Immunological Tools and Livestock Infection Models, IUSA-ULPGC, May 2017

From 24-26 May, we attended a Workshop on ‘Immunological Tools and Livestock Infection Models’ at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC). The workshop, led by experts in the area, aimed to introduce current methods to study immune responses of sheep, cattle and poultry against parasitic infections and vaccination.

Prof. Lightowlers providing encouragement for effective recombinant vaccines against worms

Local organisers, Jorge Gonzalez and Julia Hernandez, of PARAGONE’s ULPGC partners

On the first day, all participants were immersed in the assessment of humoral responses to helminths as presented by Dr. Tom McNeilly (Moredun Research Institute, UK). He discussed the apparently limitless applications of  ELISA, ELISPOT, ASC probes, blotting, and B cell-epitope mapping strategies.  This was particularly relevant for us at UCD, as we are currently conducting B-cell epitope mapping studies.

The next session, headed by Prof. Jose Perez (University of Cordoba, Spain), was an interesting and thorough presentation about the most widely-used techniques to study immune responses of cells and tissues in situ, such as single and multi-colour immunohistochemistry (IHC), immunocytometry and in situ hybridization techniques. He gave an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of each tool as well as tips, for example, to improve tissue preservation and blocking strategies.

Prof. Lightowlers providing encouragement for effective recombinant vaccines against worms

Yolanda from MRI showing PARAGONE students how to separate sheep blood cells

Next, session, Dr Yolanda Corripi-Miyar (Moredun Research Institute, UK) gave a practical explanation of the assessment of cellular immune responses to helminths. She emphasised the role of controls for multicolour flow cytometry and how to avoid common mistakes in the experimental plan. Yolanda also provided protocols for cell sorting and lymphocyte re-stimulation assays which led to a very fruitful discussion.

In the afternoon, we had practical sessions, where all participants gained hands-on experience of the techniques explained in the morning.  During these sessions, we had in-depth discussion of many issues that we face in our day-to-day experiments. The opportunity to share problems and discuss solutions with experts and research colleagues was a key benefit of the workshop.

On the second day, Tom McNeilly discussed additional immunological methods such as T-cell epitope mapping tools, and presented ideas for T cell-line generation and antigen presenting cell (APC) collection, which was really interesting for those of us planning to apply these techniques.

Prof. Lightowlers providing encouragement for effective recombinant vaccines against worms

Guest speaker, Prof. Jayne Hope, from Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute

Next, guest speaker, Dr Jane Hope (Roslin Institute, UK), offered an outstanding presentation on bovine model systems for host-pathogen interactions and vaccinology. She explained the latest techniques for afferent lymphatic cannulation to obtain fresh dendritic cells to produce accurate data about immune responses of animals.

On the third day, the last speaker and workshop organiser, Dr Jorge González (IUSA-ULPGC, Spain), gave a fascinating overview of the advantages of the immune-resistant Canarian sheep which was continued with a visit to a local sheep farm. This led to a discussion of local sheep breeds, husbandry systems and common parasites in the area, as well as an up close and personal inspection of Canarian livestock!

Prof. Lightowlers providing encouragement for effective recombinant vaccines against worms

Workshop participants visited a local farm to learn about worm management practices in sheep of the Canary Islands

On the final evening, Prof. Jacqui Matthews (Moredun Research Institute, UK) gave an open seminar session to the public, including farmers and stakeholders in the area, to debate efforts made in parasite vaccine development as well as the gaps needed to be filled.  It was a great opportunity to see the PARAGONE research efforts translated into practical knowledge for stakeholders in Gran Canaria.

Our experience was made all the more memorable due to the efforts of the local organising team, especially Jorge Gonzalez and Julia Hernandez.  We enjoyed a tour of Las Palmas old town and several social events involving amazing Canarian food and wines.  One highlight was a delightful concert of Argentinian-style music by ‘Voces de San Lorenzo’, a musical group composed of Faculty members of the Veterinary School of Gran Canaria.  Thank you very much, it was a very productive workshop and a great initiative to (hopefully) continue in the near future!