94 attendees made for record attendance levels for the WG and the science was on a par with ten sessions packed with the latest results from cardiac pathology, function and growth to progenitor cells and developmental genetics. Local organizer David Sedmera ensured the smooth running of the meeting, with a superb attention to detail that was appreciated by all the participants (some traveling from as far away as Lebanon, the USA and Japan).
The meeting kicked off at the Institute of Anatomy of Charles University in central Prague with a hands-on demonstration of comparative cardiac anatomy of five different vertebrate species (dog, pig, chick, cow and human) and examples of human hearts displaying common congenital heart defects including coronary artery patterning anomalies. This was followed by a session on cardiac function in the anatomy lecture theatre and bus transfer to the Chateau Liblice, recently restored as a state of the art conference centre by the Czech Academy of Sciences.
Two days of exciting scientific sessions followed. The calm and isolated situation of the Chateau Liblice with its extensive grounds allowed for plenty of discussion between sessions, over dinner, and late into the night with a glass of pivo. Such exchanges reinforce a major goal of the WG, promoting interaction between developmental biologists and cardiac pathologists. Social activities included a trip to nearby Melnik for a tour of the historic Chateau overlooking the plains north of Prague (incorporating a wine tasting session in the castle cellars) and, on the final day, a forest hike through the sandstone labyrinth of Kokorinsko in autumnal sunshine.
With the exception of one talk per session from an invited chairperson, the scientific programme was selected from submitted abstracts. Travel awards for young attendees were allocated on a merit basis. 15 prizes were awarded for the best talks and posters: 13 travel and registration grants, including 4 financed by a generous contribution to the meeting from the ESC Council on Basic Cardiovascular Science, one award for the best poster, in honour of the late Dr. Rychter, and the Pexeider prize (of 750 euros), awarded for the best oral presentation at the WG meeting in honour of Prof. Pexeider. Nadia Mercader, from the National Centre for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid won the Pexeider award for her outstanding presentation of scar formation followed by regeneration in a cryoinjury model of cardiac damage in the zebrafish. Grazia Ammirabile, from the University of Padua, won the Rychter award for her poster on the developmental role of the transcription factor Pitx2 at the venous pole of the mouse heart. The award ceremony, held in the marble hall of the chateau Liblice on the last evening, was accompanied by David Sedmera on the piano.
This concluded a highly stimulating few days in what was unanimously considered to be an ideal conference environment, setting a high standard and great expectations for the next meeting to be held in Amsterdam in November 2012.
The success of the WG meeting was possible thanks to the financial support of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the ESC Council on Basic Cardiovascular Science and Nikon CZ, together with the hard work of David Sedmera and his local team, including the staff of the Chateau Liblice Conference Centre, the international program committee and administrative assistance from Corine Gomez of the European Heart House in Nice.
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