Well, it was a whirlwind weekend indeed, and a fine introduction to the world of diabetes professionals and advocates. Though I have no prior year experience to compare to, I felt that both the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions and Roche Social Media Conference were well-organized and loads of productive fun. So, the short version of my weekend is: “Yay!”
In a bit more detail, some of the highlights and biggest takeaways for me:
The ADA Scientific Sessions
- The words of the hour are obesity and inflammation. Initial research is mostly into type 2 diabetes and the effects of obesity and inflammatory immune mechanisms on insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, thyroid functioning, and whole-body health, but clearly the funding directed toward these areas of research and resultant findings are having widespread effects on many areas of biological understanding. The mechanisms at play are still clearly unclear, but it was great to see so many researchers attacking the problem from so many different angles– from Lisa Thornton’s work into the reciprocal relationships between inflammation and depression in cancer patients; to Jens Bruening’s analysis of the role of the FTO gene in regulating energy homeostasis and fat storage; to a set of posters from Miriam Chimen and others at the University of Birmingham (UK) on the links between adiponectin, leptin, and T cell expression in type 2 insulin resistance and type 1 autoimmunity.
- Another big area of scientific growth: genetics. Despite the relative rarity in the population, many talks focused on neonatal diabetes and MODY (Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young) because of the unique set of genetic circumstances that these two versions of diabetes present. Many other talks also looked at the genetics of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, trying to tease out the genes that play a part in disease development as well as the cellular reality that the genetics help to reveal. I found particularly compelling John Murray’s talk on the relevance and reliability of genetic testing for Celiac disease, and Jane Buckner’s look at one particular genetic variation seen in a subset of type 1 diabetics– variation in the PTPN22 gene– and how that gene in particular might participate in the development of autoimmunity in both type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
- How many of you type 1 diabetics out there are using Symlin? I hadn’t heard much about it, other than knowing it was a product of Amylin Pharmaceuticals. At the conference, however, I spoke to several people who touted the benefits of the multi-hormonal approach to blood glucose control. Aaron Kowalski and the JDRF spoke about the importance of dual-chamber pumps going forward, but I learned a lot more out-of-session, talking to a number of diabetics who swore by Symlin injections using the Symlin Pen or wearing two pumps. The pancreas, I was told, normally secretes both the hormone amylin and insulin, and this greatly aids blood glucose regulation. I don’t know much more than that yet, but I intend to do some reading and know more shortly!
- Cooperation! Collaboration! Cross-pollination! Such marvelous things to see. I was so happy to hear several questions that began “We are looking at a similar effect in the realm of…” and so many answers that began “You know, that is a very good question. We haven’t tried that yet– but that certainly would be interesting to look at.” One of the primary purposes of the ADA Scientific Sessions is to share research from different areas, and I am thrilled to see that “sharing” isn’t presumed to end with an informational session, but includes the advancement of our collective knowledge and abilities by means of collaborative analysis and consideration. In other words, many heads are better than one!
So, overall, a wonderful experience. Knowledge gain is a beautiful thing.
Read Part 2, my thoughts from the Roche Social Media Conference…