One of the most important molecules in the human body was the centre of attention at StellenCoA2018, the third international conference on Coenzyme A in Health, Disease and Bioscience. The meeting took place at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS) from 28 October to 1 November 2018.
Coenzyme A (CoA) plays a crucial role in the energy metabolism of the cell as it initiates the Krebs cycle, the process by which living cells break down organic fuel molecules to harvest the energy they need to grow and divide. It is also central to the metabolism of fats.
However, more and more scientists are finding that it also has an important role in cell signaling, and consequently can haves a wide-ranging impact on diseases such as cancer, diabetes,as well as immune response and neuronal functions.
Studies about how disease-causing organisms make and use CoA themselves (which is often different from the manner in which humans do this) also offers hope in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the parasites that cause malaria.
Professor Erick Strauss, a biochemist in the Department of Biochemistry at SU and chair of the organizing committee, says researchers engaged in this breadth of studies on CoA are seldom gathered at a single conference: “The conference's unique focus on a metabolite rather than a specific disease allowed us to invite speakers from a range of research fields. Researchers and especially postgraduate students were thus exposed to the multi- and interdisciplinary approach to research that is so essential to this field, and was able to learn from the often complementary approaches we each take to study the biological roles of this molecule."
The meeting drew praise from several participants for the quality of the scientific programme, and the excellent location. Said one attendee: “It was a wonderful meeting for the community, and a once-in-a-career experience."
The next conference will take place in the United States in 2020.