Celebrating posters

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If you followed the reporting about the symposium last weekend, I’m willing to bet (but I haven’t checked!) that most it will have been about the talks that people attended or liked. When actually, a large proportion of the research presented at the International Symposium on ALS/MND is in the form of a poster.

Milan poster session discussion
Delegates discuss a poster presentation

A poster is a hard copy of a research study, it can be the latest results or developing a new methodology. It’s quite often a PhD student’s introduction into presenting their work face to face to their peers.

Following the day’s talks, on the first and second evening of the symposium, it was time for an opportunity for some informal networking around the posters. At allocated time slots presenters stand by their work and explain it to fellow delegates. (They also have time to visit other posters too).

For twenty of those presenting posters, there was an additional pressure. They were on the shortlist for the International Symposium Clinical and Scientific Poster Prizes respectively.

International Symposium on ALS/MND poster prize – new for 2013!

As the number of delegates attending the symposium has increased year on year, so too has the number of poster presentations being made. The increase in number hasn’t affected the quality of the work – so the posters have become a vital part of the meeting. The Programme Committee felt that it was time to recognise this, with the added bonus of enhancing the careers of the early-career stage scientists and clinicians who generally present their work as posters. Hence the International Symposium on ALS/MND Poster Prize was born.

Initially the poster summaries (abstracts) were assessed on their content, for example, is the study clearly explained? Are the results statistically robust? and crucially, how does the study enhance the field? During the symposium poster sessions themselves members of the Programme Committee visited each poster in turn, where the presenter explained the poster.

And the winners are…

Clinical poster prize was awarded to Dr Mieko Ogino, from Kitasato University in Japan for her poster entitled “The trace to the fight for the improvement in palliative care of the patients with ALS in Japan”. The poster was presented as P8 of the Multidisciplinary Care and Quality of Life (theme 1) on the first evening of the conference (Friday 6 December).

Some people with MND may be given morphine to help reduce symptoms and ease distress and anxiety at the end of life, this is standard care for many Western countries. The objective of Dr Ogino’s study was to share her team’s experiences in campaigning to make morphine available to MND patients in Japan at the end of life and in particular include its use in health insurance policies. More information on end of life care is available on the Association’s website.

24th IS clinical poster prize winner
Dr Ogino is awarded the clinical poster prize in Milan

The poster was clearly presented and well explained. It described a positive outcome for practice in Japan – a real strategic approach for making a difference for people with MND” explained Steve Bell, MND Association Director of Care and member of the Programme Committee. “Dr Ogino demonstrated real passion for the subject

A tie at the top

The panel of the Programme Committee assessing the scientific poster prize found it hard to choose between two posters, so in the end a joint prize was awarded to Dr Dirk Baumer at Oxford University, UK and Ms Laura MacNair at Toronto University, Canada.

Ms MacNair is a PhD student investigating that all important and much discussed topic – the toxicity of TDP43 protein as a cause of motor neurone disease. It is clear that malfunctions within TDP43 does cause MND but how it does it is still under investigation. Laura’s poster was P243, entitled “Translational profiling in TDP43 transgenic mouse model of ALS” in the In Vivo Models poster theme (Theme 9).

As I explained in an earlier symposium blog, TDP43 plays a role in helping to make proteins within the motor neurones, by assisting in the job of RNA. Ms McNair used two approaches to focus in on exactly what was happening to RNA in the presence of TDP43. Firstly, she attached a fluorescent tag to motor neurones in the spinal cord, making them easier to isolate in the lab. The second method she used was to used a novel technique called TRAP (Translating Ribosome Affinity Purification – you can see why it is abbreviated!). The TRAP technique helps to separate out only the RNAs that are being read to make proteins (‘translated’) at a specific time. You can read more about the TRAP technique on a blog from the Broad Institute in USA.

Laura MacNair explaining her prize-winning poster
Laura MacNair explaining her prize-winning poster

“Ms MacNair applied a novel and highly sensitive technique which has the potential to greatly increase our understanding of the genes being switched on and off in degenerating motor neurons” commented Dr Brian Dickie, Director of Research Development at the Association and member of the Programme Committee.

Her work was performed in the TDP-43 mouse model of the disease, but having now established its effectiveness she is ready to take the work into human tissue studies”.

Moving from the mouse model to humans is a nice introduction to the work of the second, joint winner of the scientific poster prize, Dr Dirk Baumer. His poster “C9orf72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion pathology in the Oxford Brain Bank cohort” (P194) was presented in the Human Cell Biology and Pathology poster theme.

“Dr Baumer had performed a very thoughtful characterization of post-mortem MND tissue,” Brian explained afterwards. He was able to link his findings with clinical features.

Tissue donation is such an important gift and after our conversation with Dr Baumer we were convinced that he had used this gift wisely.

Further reading?

The technical summaries of all of the posters – the abstracts – are available from the Association’s website. In addition, this year, for the first time, we are encouraging all poster presenters to deposit their presented poster in an online database called F1000. More information on both can be found on the symposium homepage.

After you’ve finished reading the symposium articles that interest you, we’d be grateful if you could spare a few minutes to fill in our short online survey on our symposium reporting. Your comments really are useful and allow us to continually improve our symposium reporting

4 thoughts on “Celebrating posters

  1. Belinda, I am so glad to hear that authors are being encouraged to archive their posters on F1000. The ALS/MND International Symposium is the jewel in the crown of our global scientific community, but it suffers a few limitations. First not everybody can be there every year, and I know many scientists struggle in a time of tight budgets to get out there especially if they don’t have new data to share. Second it remains technically difficult and resource-intensive to do the sort of patient participation I know you are keen to do such as livestreaming or video archiving. Third, I can tell you from experience that when you’re actually there, it can be overwhelming how much is going on, like drinking from an ALS firehose. Do I go to the platform session, network with colleagues, or browse through the posters? I think the solution you’re proposing here helps address *all three* of these limitations. Through poster archiving scientists can read each other’s work even if they didn’t attend (even those who attended can benefit from having higher resolution digital copies), savvier patients can browse through the posters and followup via email with questions or discuss them in forums, and those on the ground at the meeting can make the most of the “face time” with colleagues knowing that they can always access archives later. Similar policies have worked well at AAN and ISPOR so I am thrilled to see these here. Hopefully as it becomes more successful these can be integrated into the submission process. Cheers, Paul

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