Lorentz Center - Recent Insights in Mitochondrial Evolution Applied to Health and Ageing from 8 Jul 2013 through 12 Jul 2013
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    Recent Insights in Mitochondrial Evolution Applied to Health and Ageing
    from 8 Jul 2013 through 12 Jul 2013


Scientific Report


Scientific case and motivation
Our workshop brought together researchers studying the molecular details of intra-cellular processes linked to conflict amongst mitochondria and between mitochondria and the nucleus at different levels. We particularly included medical researchers interested in mitochondria-related diseases, molecular biologists studying the details of mitochondrial organisation and function, and evolutionary biologists interested in genetic conflicts. Our expectations were that the interaction of these three fields would be reciprocally illuminating, as so far they have operated separately. Our aim was to advance the disparate fields by combining different kinds of expertise and to provide researchers with the necessary details to make more specific predictions about the consequences of mitochondrial evolution, both long term and during somatic growth, on diseases and aging.



Our workshop allowed evolutionary biologists to obtain a deeper understanding of the exact mechanisms underlying mitochondrial evolution. At the same time molecular and medical researchers were given evolutionary insights that will allow the formulation of specific predictions aimed at preventing or curing mitochondrial diseases.


A tangible outcome of our workshop is the collaboration between researchers at different stages in their career and with different research backgrounds in the writing of articles to be published in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Biological Sciences. This special issue will contain 10 articles, all written by participants of this workshop, most of whom are working with new collaborators. The issue is due in April 2014.


After a talk by an evolutionary biologist, one of the medical researchers stood up and proclaimed that the talk he just heard fundamentally changed the way he thinks about the causes of mitochondrial diseases. Interestingly, this was not because the evolutionary biologist was presenting novel ideas, but because of the divide that exists between scientists in different fields, even when they are working on similar problems (in this case the role of mitochondria in aging and disease). We think this is an indication that we achieved our main goal of the workshop.


Format of the workshop

Our workshop mainly consisted of talks by most participants with plenty of time for discussions. We specifically allowed time for new collaborations to materialise based around writing articles for the special issue. Because these collaborations were truly new, it was often difficult for the organisers to keep the discussion going and to have the participants agree on writing articles. We are happy with the result, but it probably would have been easier to have prepared the participants better before the start of the workshop. On the other hand, our approach encouraged new collaborations, which was the intention.


We feel we had a good mix of established researchers, postdocs and PhD students. The Lorentz Center workshops are ideal in size in that the number of participants is not so high to be intimidating. A large number of our participants were very vocal which made the discussions interesting, to say the least, but the atmosphere was always collegial.


Other comments

We chose the boat tour for the dinner which was a good choice, apart from the cold change. It was nice because it allowed the participants to mingle and talk.


The support from the Lorentz Center staff was excellent and we highly recommend organising a workshop.



Dr. Duur K. Aanen (Laboratory of Genetics, Wageningen University)

Prof Madeleine Beekman (School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney)

Prof. Hans Spelbrink (Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre)