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10th International Comet Assay Workshop

The 10th International Comet Assay Workshop (ICAW) took place in Porto, Portugal, September 2013.  Delegates were treated to three days of oral presentations, posters, exhibitors and poster mini-talks with one common theme: the comet assay.

Delegates arrived from across the globe (Russia, Iraq, Norway, Mexico and Hong Kong, to name a few) and the conference kicked off with a welcome session delivered by Prof Andrew Collins (University of Oslo) and Dr Joao Paulo Teixeira (local organiser, National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge).

New this year…
A new and improved format, featuring the introduction of poster mini-talks and ‘young scientist’ co-chairs, was extremely well received.  The mini-talks gave many scientists chance to briefly present their research and the early-career chair-people helped fulfil one of the fundamental ideals of the meeting: “All are equal, and the newest recruits can readily share ideas with the old-timers.”

In the beginning…
The ICAW was preceded by a satellite meeting, International Conference on Occupational & Environmental Toxicology (ICOETox 2013), also in Porto.  The conference was comprised of keynote lectures given by well-respected scientists, oral presentations and poster sessions.  Many scientists chose to spend the whole week in Porto and stay for both conferences. 

Scientifically speaking…
The first scientific session of the ICAW focussed on cellular DNA damage and DNA repair.  Presentations were made by Joanna Gorniak, Günter Speit and Rubén Rodriguez.  Following the coffee break, the next session was on nanotoxicology and the comet assay.   Delegates heard the latest research involving titanium dioxide, iron oxide, silver and platinum nanoparticles. 

Next, a technical session was presented.  Talks about improvements, such as advancements in electrophoresis methods, and increased through-put ideas were discussed.  Petra Jackson, Andrew Collins and Gunnar Brunborg delivered excellent presentations on their particular comet assay research areas.  Then several poster mini-talks by scientists from across the continent, all of an exceptional standard, were presented.  Most noticeably, the idea of mini-gels was discussed by several different delegates.  This method involves mini-gels being created so that more samples can be processed in a shorter time.  The method is cost effective as it requires smaller volumes of reagents and more samples can fit in one electrophoresis tank simultaneously.  We were delighted to see Comet Assay IV being used to score cells embedded in mini-gels. 

Other sessions covered the themes of occupational exposure and genotoxicity, applications of the comet assay to human disease, ecogenotoxicity, plant comet assay and testing the effects of phytochemicals.

We enjoyed hearing about our system, Comet Assay IV, being used in a wide range of scientific applications.  We look forward to seeing a publication, hopefully coming out later this year, from Bertrand Pourrut’s group using Comet Assay IV to look at the comet assay performed on plant cells. 

Social activities…
A social afternoon was organised for the delegates and they were transported by coach to visit the Palácio da Bolsa, the Queijo Castle and the port wine cellars, of course!  This was followed by a cruise on the Rio Douro.  Earlier in the week, the delegates were treated to local Portuguese cuisine and music during the conference dinner. 

And finally…
The conference ended with a vote; all delegates were asked to raise their hands to vote on the venue of the next ICAW in Belgium: Antwerp or Bruges… We couldn’t possibly spoil the surprise for everyone!  See you all in Belgium for the 11th International Comet Assay Workshop 2015.