The series of workshops held in memory of Wilhelm Bernard (1929-1986) through many cities in Europe, the most recent having just finished in Riga, Latvia. These meetings were started to facilitate greater communication and interaction between scientists in Western and Eastern Europe during the time of the “iron curtain.” It has proved an excellent seeding ground and catalyst for collaboration, producing excellent research already over 3 generation of scientists.
Attended by 124 scientists from 23 countries worldwide, it was devoted to investigations of the structure and function of the nucleus. With more than 40 oral and over 50 poster presentations, the coverage of the subject was cutting edge and remarkably comprehensive. Organised by Nikolajs Sjakste of the Institute of Organic Synthesis in Riga, assisted by many colleagues in this and other Institutes as well as the University of Latvia, the meeting proved to be one of high calibre, added to which the ambiance and the hospitality was outstanding, with the weather bringing us bright sunshine and warmth. The meeting was sponsored by the the International Federation for Cell Biology, the European Foundation of Regional Development and BioSan.
The honoured speaker, also receiving the Wilhelm Bernhard medal, was Klaus Sherrer (Paris) who presented a detailed account of his genon hypothesis. It would appear that if only a small percentage of of the genomeis involved in producing the proteins used by the cell, what might the rest of the genome be doing? The notion being articulated by Sherrer is that it is nevertheless transcribed and the RNA products enter a regulatory pool in the province of the nucleolus, where maturation processes occur and allow integration and interaction with other components of the nucleus. The spatial arrangements were seen to be of particular significance. While somewhat controversial, an opening address of this intensity and insight immediately had the delegates “on their toes” – a good start to any workshop. Many experts were to follow, with much new information emerging from many of the presentations. It would be iniquitous to dwell on the fine talks by many others, but the following sessions were held over the following 4 days that will give some indication of the main aspects covered: Nucleolus and RNA; Chromosomes; Polyploidy; Plant Cell Nucleus; Epigenetics; Transcription and Nucleocytoplasmic transport; Chromatin Organization; Development, Senescence and Apoptosis; DNA Damage and Repair. The most impressive reports combining nuclear spational analysis with molecular methods were presented from the laboratories of Gabor Szabo (Hungary), Yegor Vassetzsky (France in collaboration with Russian and Netherland colleagues) and Pavel Hozak (Czech Republic). The talk of Tobias Knoch (the Nederlands/Germany) on the holistic organisation of the chromatin in cell nucleus was probably a summit of the comprehensive trend in this meeting. Few stones were left unturned!
At the WBW organizing committee’s meeting, Dr Gabor Szabo received the honour of becoming the organizer of the 23rd workshop, to be held in Drebrecen, Hungary, in 2013.