8th East-West Immunogenetics Conference in Vienna, February 13-14, 2014

Vienna was home to the 8th East-West Immunogenetics Conference attended by scientists and transplantation specialists mainly from Europe. Visit the EWIC website: http://www.ewic2014.net/index.php?id=1376

The conference covered a range of topics from disease associations to technical aspects of HLA typing. In this summary, I only make a few remarks on the topics and presentations of particular interest to me. For more the list of the program please link to the conference home page: http://www.ewic2014.net/index.php?id=1377

A session was dedicated to solid organ transplantations including paired donations.  This was the aspect where there was a striking difference from presentations on the same topic two weeks ago at the Terasaki Festschrift. Europe still has to catch up with the US in paired and chain donations. In several European countries the law needs to be changed before they can contemplate paired donations. Due to the fragmented national health care systems it is more difficult to facilitate large paired donor exchanges.

Another section covered stem cell transplantation. I found particularly interesting some presentations on chimerism monitoring and analysis including Dario Ligeiro’s plenary presentation and Kristina Kopic in the abstract session.

The abstract session included several population genetics studies of various regions in Russia. Russian colleagues from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Samara and Chelyabinsk attended and presented regional and cross-Russian population genetics studies.

I was most interested in the HLA typing and technology related presentations of which I mention two in particular. Sendi Montanic and colleagues presented their experience with using next generation sequencing (NGS) for HLA typing. They compared results on 50 samples between NGS and Sanger sequence based typing analyzing HLA-A, B, C, DRB1, DQB1. They used AlleleSEQR Kits with Assign 3.5+ software for Sanger sequencing and GS GType HMA MR Primer set and Roche 454 Sequencing System with Assign ATF 454 for NGS.

In this example they obtained similar resolution of results between Sanger and NGS. It was surprising to see high level of ambiguity in the NGS results.

This example demonstrates that no new technology will be able to break the limitations of the experimental design. While NGS can theoretically resolve all ambiguities, if it is implemented in a combination with exon-based, short amplicon sample preparation, it cannot bring the benefits that NGS theoretically could bring.

Christina Voorter gave a plenary presentation with an excellent overview of different sequencing technologies ranging Sanger sequencing to nanopores. She described the chemistry and technology behind next generation sequencing using Illumina, Roche 454 or Ion Torrent instruments that share the aspect of clonal amplification, which is an important factor for allele resolution. She also showed some upcoming single-molecule sequencing techniques such as Pacific Biosciences SMRT technology or nanopore based sequencing from Oxford Nanopore. In the assessment of these technologies for HLA typing she concluded that Sanger sequencing is here to stay even in the world of next generation sequencing. The lack of available sample-to-result solution is a key stumbling block in the adaptation of NGS in the HLA laboratory.