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Travel Story: Bihong Zhang

Bihong-ZhangBihong Zhang from the Robinson Research Institute’s Reproductive Immunology Research Group attended the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) Annual Meeting in San Diego, United States in July 2016.

Bihong presented on her research Repeated exposure to male seminal fluid progressively builds the tolerogenic regulatory T cell population in mice.

This is what Bihong had to say about her experience:

 What was a highlight of the conference?

Dr Fuller Bazer’s presentation about the role of interferon-t as the signals for pregnancy maintenance was a highlight of the conference. Fuller is known for his contributions in the biological mystery of embryo-maternal signalling, which maintains pregnancy and survival of the embryo in livestock species. Among his key discoveries, Fuller found IFNT is critical as the pregnancy recognition signal to establish pregnancy, and it is required to act in concert with progesterone or a progestamedin(s) from uterine stromal cells to stimulate expression of genes for transporters of amino acids and glucose, and other components of histotroph required for the maintenance of pregnancy and conceptus development.

Did you meet any researchers or collaborators of significance? Why are they important to your work?

I met Professor Thomas Spencer who works on the uterine receptivity at peri-implantation period. It is a complicated process for the fetus to be implanted. Regulatory T cells are crucial in the success of fetal implantation and my work is about the stability of Regulatory T cells at peri-implantation period. The knowledge about the uterine interactions and receptivity is very important for my research. Professor Spencer’s research can be very helpful in understanding the big picture of uterine interactions.

Did you visit any other labs or research facilities? How these visits will be useful to your work and/or career development?

I visited the vascular lab at University of San Diego. The lab is focusing on vasculature and angiogenesis from immunology perspective. As my work is about Regulatory T cells at implantation period where there are lots of vasculature changes and angiogenesis in the placental formation, visiting this lab has enabled me to understand vasculature changes as well as angiogenesis. They also work on microRNAs which regulates immune responses during vasculature changes and angiogenesis, which provides me further understanding of my work.

What was the most exciting thing you learned/experienced at the Conference?

I co-chaired one focus session ‘Conceptus-uterine interactions: critical players in pregnancy success’

What was the most interesting or unexpected moment of your travel?

The most exciting thing I learnt at this conference was how to talk confidently to senior researchers. I have always felt nervous when introducing myself to other researchers especially to those senior researchers. The conference provided a very relaxed atmosphere for me to communicate with others.

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