Epithelial transitions and cell migration; Learning from development to tackle disease
Many features of the development and physiology of living organisms are made possible by the plasticity of epithelial cells. Not only does it enable their transformation to different cell types, which is often reversible, it also facilitates their migration to new locations. These phenomena allow cells to change and adapt, and to meet specific needs in the face of different challenges. In this way, the plasticity of epithelial cells enables the generation of mesenchymal cells in mesoderm or endoderm tissues as the living organisms develop, and also for epithelial cells to reach sites distant from where they originate. In addition, some epithelial cells retain plasticity during adulthood, and this is crucial for processes, such as maintaining homeostasis by substituting for cells lost upon normal use or to face injuries by wound healing. However, epithelial plasticity must be strictly regulated, as derailed epithelial transitions and migration appear to be at the base of a wide range of diseases.
Moreover, recent developments link cell transitions with the acquisition of stem cell properties, which opens a whole new area of study. In this meeting we plan to get together basic and translational scientists working in different aspects of these issues to identify common themes that may be of general relevance both to development and disease.