T21RS meeting in Barcelona June 2019

The third International Conference of T21RS – a great success

The third International Conference of T21RS held last June in Barcelona gathered a total of 429 participants from 36 countries, scientists, families, and industry representatives. The most represented countries were Spain, USA, France, Italy, United Kingdom, and Brazil, but we had attendees from many other countries. The program was tight over the four days, with plenary sessions, parallel scientific sessions, poster sessions and updates on the T21 society.
167 posters were presented, among which 65 teams had the opportunity to present their results in a short talk or a nano symposium. There were 4 plenary lectures, 3 satellite symposia, 14 symposia (70 talks), a session devote to Industry, another one to Education Session and a Science and Society Symposium.
The meeting was organized by the 11 members of the Organizing Committee, 12 PhD/Postdoc volunteers and 9 volunteers with Down syndrome, 10 members of the Program Committee, and the support of the 11 members of the executive board. The technical secretariat managed more than 7.300 emails and we had the support of 19 companies/institutions.

Scientific sessions

This event will help further progress in all areas of Down syndrome research and will help to address the challenges we face in the field.
Beside the scientific sessions which focused on specific areas of research, including clinical and pre-clinical studies, daily plenary lectures gave a more in-depth look into a range of topics :

  • Stylianos Antonarakis (University of Geneva, CH) talked about the genetics of human chromosome 21.
  • Wieland Huttner (Max Planck Institute, GER) discussed how the morphology of basal progenitor cells influences neocortex development.
  • Li-Huei Tsai (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) spoke about the potential for using g-waves to modify the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • André Strydom (King’s College London, UK) gave an update on the results obtained from the LonDownS Consortium, an association based in London of scientists working on Down syndrome from a molecular, clinical, and genetic point of view.

During a session on the ethics of using different types of models, a panel of scientists discussed the pros and cons of mouse models versus induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), defending their preferred models, and a sparking discussion between them and the audience.

Scientists meet people with Down Syndrome and their families

In addition to the science, events like ‘Family Day’ and ‘Meet the Scientist’ put scientists together with people with Down syndrome and their families, thus enabling both communities to know each other better. As one of the pre-meeting events, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and the Barcelona Beta Brain Research Center (BBRC) centers opened their lab doors to conference attendees to exhibit their state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, and share updates on their current protects.

Social program

Finally, the social program also offered a wide range of entertainment. Quim Vilamajó presented his art project ‘I am able’, where he passionately talked about his experience of living with Down syndrome; the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Manantial de Ilusión (Chile) performed ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in a capturing wheel of colours and music; the band ‘Els Cracs d’Andi’ offered a concert from the terrace of the Mirabè Restaurant just before the conference Gala Dinner
At the opening of the congress, Quim Vilamajó, a young man with Down syndrome, presented with amazing self-confidence and joy I am able, the artistic project that he is working on together with his father. Through videos and photographs, Quim reflects upon living with a disability such as Down syndrome and calls into question about our own disabilities.

Questions to the scientists

During the three days of the conference, Quim and the Trisomy 21 Research Society shared through their social networks (#Iamableproject, @quimvilamajo, @culturaccio, @ T21RSBarcelona) six videos in which Quim shared his reflections and addressed questions to the scientists:

1) What makes people with Down syndrome different?,

2) Why do some people with Down syndrome express themselves better than others?,

3) Will we ever have the tools to solve things for ourselves?,

4) Why people with Down syndrome talk to themselves?,

5) Why do things affect me so much and I get sad?, and

6) Why is it so difficult for people with Down syndrome to see the positive side of things?

To date, the videos have reached almost 10,000 views and have contributed to spread the commendable goal of the I am able project: to break down barriers and prejudices about people with “disabilities” and to influence about the role they can play in this complex, difficult and competitive world.

A Special Issue of the journal Brain Sciences

A Special Issue of the journal Brain Sciences about Research on Down Syndrome on the direction of Alberto Costa will be through soon. The group of Alberto will have a chapter titled “On the Design of Broad-Based Neuropsychological Test Batteries to Assess the Cognitive Abilities of Individuals with Down Syndrome in the Context of Clinical Trials”.
The next T21RS Conference will be organized at Irvine, California, in May 2021.

Report: Jacqueline London