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Interview with Sonia Berrih-Aknin 


Spotlight on Sonia Berrih-Aknin, co-chairperson of the 9th International Congress on Autoimmunity


Sonia Berrih-Aknin is an expert in autoimmune Myasthenia Gravis, an endlessly fascinating and complex specialty that studies the immune system’s imbalances as a potential factor in the development of diseases.


At the beginning of her career, Sonia worked on the mechanisms of differentiation of the T cells that occur in the thymus. Interestingly, there is an autoimmune disease in which the thymus presents morphological and functional abnormalities.


Sonia recently sat down for an interview in which she outlined her vision for the 9th International Congress on Autoimmunity. Regarding the appeal of the Congress, Sonia states:


 “This conference attracts clinicians, researchers and patients. Due to this interplay, progress on a specific disease may impact our knowledge of other diseases. In addition, this international congress is chaired by Prof Yehuda Shoenfeld, who is well known for his knowledge in the field of autoimmunity.”


Sonia is especially excited about the Congress’s focus on mechanisms leading to autoimmunity:


“The relative contributions of genetics and the environment are an important issue. Recently, epigenetic aspects have begun to be explored; it is very exciting because it can possibly explain how external factors can alter genetic expressions. I am also interested in new therapies since progress in one pathology can produce new outcomes in other diseases.”


Regarding the locale for the 2014 event, Sonia stresses the point that there is more to Nice than just breathtaking beauty:


“France is a country where many studies on autoimmunity have been developed. Jean-François Bach was the founding editor of Journal of Autoimmunity in 1988 and was its editor-in-chief for almost twenty years. Many research teams from the CNRS, INSERM, universities and hospitals are focused on the different aspects of autoimmune pathologies.”


As a hotbed for new ideas, Sonia is confident that the Congress will present advances in etiology, physiopathology, diagnostic and various therapies that will be revealed by the internationally acclaimed group of invited speakers.


When asked about which topics will generate the most heated debates and lively discussions, Sonia cites vaccine safety, Epigenetics and the interactions between Microbiota and autoimmunity as fascinating areas of study.


Specifically with regards to her lecture topic at the Congress, Sonia is looking forward to sharing her latest research into the mechanisms of etiology and physiopathology of Myasthenia Gravis and presenting insights into the understanding of why and how patients with Myasthenia Gravis develop germinal centers in their thymus.