“EUROMEDLAB 2017”: New technologies in medicine

3 July 2017
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During the past decades, Laboratory Medicine has brought a “revolution” in the field of medicine, contributing significantly to prevention as well as management of medical conditions. At the same time, however, a number of dilemmas, both scientific and ethical are pushed to the surface.

Aiming at broadening the cognitive field and deepening on cutting-edge matters, through creative dialogue, reflection and exchanges on latest developments and innovations in Laboratory Medicine, scientists recently participated in “EUROMEDLAB 2017” – 22nd European Congress of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine held in Athens, at the Megaron Athens International Conference Centre.

Held every two years, the Congress was organized by the Greek Society of Clinical Chemistry- Clinical Biochemistry, the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and the European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine.

The Congress was addressed mainly to the local and international community of biochemists, biologists, laboratory doctors, clinical chemists, chemists and pharmacists as well as employees in diagnostic and research centres with a relevant field of expertise.

“EUROMEDLAB 2017” welcomed approximately 5,500 distinguished Greek and foreign scientists from all over the world.

“We believe that hosting such an important Congress in Athens will contribute not only to the city’s promotion, but also to the promotion and recognition of the academic and clinical work that is taking place in Greece”, pointed out Dr. Alexander Haliasos, General Secretary of the Greek Society of Clinical Chemistry – Clinical Biochemistry (GSCC-CB), Doctor of Medicine, Clinical Chemist, EurClinChem and Chairman of “EUROMEDLAB 2017” 22nd European Congress of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine.

The scientific program included, inter alia, 33 symposia, six “meet the expert” sessions, an author’s workshop, 35 educational workshops sponsored by IVD companies, the welcome address and four satellite meetings.

Two of the symposia attracted the interest of the participants: “The role of laboratory in the management of ICU/critically ill patients”, chaired by George Baltopoulos, Professor Emeritus, Intensive Care and Pulmonology, NTUA and “The role of laboratory in stroke diagnosis and monitoring of patients”, organized in cooperation with the Hellenic Stroke Society.

The program also included four thematic satellite symposia. Two symposia on “Metabolic Bone Diseases” and “Inborn Errors of Metabolism” were held on Saturday June 10th, while the thematic satellite meeting on Diabetes was held in collaboration with the Hellenic Diabetes Association on June 15th-16th.

As an invited speaker, Professor George Malliaras from the Department of Bio-electronics of the École des Mines de Saint-Étienne, France spoke of “New technologies for interfacing with the brain”. This technology promises to deliver new tools for diagnosis and treatment of a host of pathologies including epilepsy and neurodegeneration (Alzheimer, etc.).

Another highlight in the Congress program involved the debates between world-class scientists. They were open to the general public and covered interesting subjects, such as:
• Lessons from 30 years of cancer screening.
Dr. Ann McTiernan (USA) provided evidence on the contribution of screening in life expectancy in certain types of cancer, and particularly in breast cancer, while Dr. Laura Esserman (USA) counterpointed that the cost of diagnostic tests is greater than the anticipated benefit, while it also leads to side effects, such as overdiagnosis and excessive treatment.

• The ethics of gene editing
Dr. Nicholas Katsanis (Greece – USA) and Dr. Françoise Baylis (Canada) crossed their swords on how gene editing for plants, animals and humans can be carried out without upsetting social cohesion.

• Direct to consumer testing (DCT) Ethical issues and confidentiality
Dr. Rodger Seccombe (Canada) argued that free and anonymous access to diagnostic tests can contribute to overall better health, while Dr. Daniel Holmes (Canada) focused on providing evidence that, under current conditions of use, the new technologies on which direct-to consumer testing is based may possibly lead to unreliable results and contribute to overdiagnosis and excessive treatment of particular conditions.

• Antidoping testing. Should we allow doping if it is medically safe and accessible to all?
Dr. David Epstein (USA) argued that antidoping testing should be intensified, while Dr. Geoffrey S. Baird (USA) tried to convince the audience that free access of all athletes to medically safe pharmaceutical substances that boost physical performance is the only way of solving the problem of doping.

“The selection of subjects for these debates was driven by the need to make scientific achievements understood by the public, so that they may decide, at any moment, with the help of the scientific community on the necessity of diagnostic testing, the use of which is accompanied by moral dilemmas. Special attention was also given to public participation in these debates. All participants had the chance to pose direct questions and express their opinion on what the guest speakers said”, explained Dr. Haliasos.

Summing up on the scientific program of the Congress, the main thematic units were:
• Standardization of the laboratory testing procedure from collection of biological samples to result announcement.
• Management of laboratory tests carried out outside clinical laboratories (Point-of-Care testing)
• New technologies and their contribution to the diagnosis of diseases
• Personalized Medicine.

The four key speakers at “EUROMEDLAB 2017 “elaborated on developments on fundamental issues of scientific research. George Chrousos, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Athens, delivered a speech on “The influence of stress in human disease risk”; George Pavlakis, Chief of the Human Retrovirus Section at the National Cancer Institute, USA, referred to the New vaccines and immunotherapies for AIDS and cancer, while Nicholas Katsanis, Director at the Centre for Human Disease Modeling of Duke University (USA) analysed the role of whole genome sequencing in health and disease. Finally, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy Françoise Baylis, analysed the ethical dilemmas that arise from human gene editing”.

Based on the impressions and comments by those who participated in Euromedlab 2017 in Athens, this was one of the most successful congresses ever held in Greece.

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