Reema Davis, currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, under the supervision of Dr. Kathleen Caron, received a travel award from LE&RN to attend the 2016 Gordon Research Conference in Lymphatics held in Ventura, CA. We asked Reema to share her thoughts on that experience with us and to tell us a bit about her research and future plans.
What did you get out of the Conference? Why did you feel it was important to attend?
Lymphatics GRC was the perfect opportunity for me to meet the who’s who of the lymphatics field from all across the globe, discuss my findings through my oral and poster presentations, and network. Being relatively new to the lymphatic field, this conference helped me get a sense of the current “hot topics,” understand where it’s headed, and appreciate its collective concerns. This conference was very unique in that for the first time I heard patients’ accounts of their daily struggles with lymphedema which left me in tears and lit a fire in me to do something in whatever way I can.
What are your areas of interest in research?
Over the course of my PhD and postdoctoral research I’ve begun to identify myself as a vascular biologist. Considering the increased prevalence of digestive tract diseases, I’m currently working towards delineating the role that lymphatic vessels play in intestinal disease progression and recovery as well as fat absorption. I’m also studying gene(s) involved in non-immune hydrops fetalis. In addition, I’m also attempting to map the open chromatin landscape of lymphatic endothelial cells in order to contribute to the knowledge of what makes them distinct from blood endothelial cells.
What are your hopes and plans for your career and your research?
During the course of my postdoctoral training I hope to contribute to this field and also identify a niche that requires a lot more study and that interests me the most, on which I can continue to work of my own accord.
Why do you believe that, in general, lymphatic research is important? What might the field accomplish within the next few years?
Despite being the “lesser known” vessels of our body, lymphatic vessels permeate and drain fluid from nearly every organ, traffic immune cells, and aid in dietary fat absorption. Several disease conditions such as lymphedema, lymphangiectasia, lymphatic malformations, are caused by abnormal lymphatic vessels or mutated lymphatic genes. Moreover, in cancer these vessels can work as a conduit for the metastasis of malignant cells, further emphasizing the importance of lymphatic research. In the upcoming years, the field will likely make huge strides in understanding the genetic make-up of lymphatic vessels and their functioning in several organs and human diseases.