Research into programmed cell death to help combat pests and yield longer-lasting fruit

More than 50 international experts are debating the current state of research and expectations for the future in industry and agriculture at the scientific debates organized by B·Debate and CRAG from 2 to 4 October in Barcelona


Programmed cell death (PCD) is a process of controlled self-destruction that allows living beings to develop correctly and renew organs and tissues by eliminating old cells that would otherwise jeopardize survival. It is thus essential to life. In animals, PCD is also involved in such important processes as fighting infection, some autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer, as it genetically destroys damaged cells.

In plants, PCD also plays a key role in health, with the resulting economic impact. According to provisions from the United Nations, the human population will have increased 13% in the next 15 years and, as a result, so will humanity’s food needs. In order to provide for the world population, we must find new ways to protect the most important food species from disease and maximize their yield.

Having crops that not only grow better in healthy conditions, but are also able to fight fungal and bacterial pathogens has become a priority. PCD is key in this fight, as plants defend themselves against a bacterial or fungal attack by initiating a program of cell suicide in cells near the focus of the infection, thus eliminating the organisms and preventing them from spreading throughout the plant. Understanding these mechanisms on a molecular level is key to effectively fighting pests and obtaining higher-yield plants that are better suited to adverse environmental conditions.

On 2, 3 and 4 October, international experts in programmed cell death in plants are meeting at CosmoCaixa Barcelona to discuss the current status of research in this field and the implications and expectations of industry and agriculture. The scientific debates The death of plant cells: From proteases to field applications are organized by B·Debate, an initiative of Biocat and the "la Caixa" Foundation, and the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG).

The scientific leaders are CRAG researchers Nuria Sánchez Coll and Marc Valls. Participants will include Guy Salvensen, director of the Program in Apoptosis and Cell Death Research at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and adjunct professor at the University of California, San Diego; Frank Van Breusegem, head of a research group at the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology Department of Plant Systems Biology and professor of Plant Biotechnology at Ghent University; Isabel Díaz, head of a research group at the Center for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics (CBGP), and Richard Vierstra, researcher and member of the Board for the International Society of Plant Molecular Biologists and of the Executive Committee for the American Society of Plant Biologists.

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