12th German Pancreatic Islet Cell Workshop

On March 16-18, 2015 more than 100 novice and established islet cell researchers gathered together in Bremen to present and discuss the latest research results in the field of islet cells. The event, which was also supported by the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), featured three high-profile keynote lectures by Professor Dotta, Professor Renstrøm and Professor Allayee as well as a varied evening program.

The workshop encompassed the complete spectrum of islet cell research and gave young scientists the opportunity to present their work in front of experts and gain valuable suggestions from the discussions. The opening session of the workshop focused on the artificial generation of beta cells. In recent years mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have played an increasingly important role. MSCs send paracrine signals to protect beta cells, but they also act as a source for efficient in vitro regeneration of beta cells. A newly discovered pancreatic gene synaptotagmin XIII, which is reduced in type 2 diabetes, is expressed both during development and in adult pancreatic islet cells, and its influence in the polarity of the beta cells was presented.
Immunity and Diabetes
“Immunity and Type 1 Diabetes” was the topic of a further session, which highlighted the role of virus infections in the development of type 1 diabetes. In his keynote lecture Professor Dotta outlined the relationship between enterovirus infection and the pathology of type 1 diabetes and the influence of the innate immune system and of chemokines. 
A series of lectures presented new regulatory mechanisms of insulin secretion. Key topics were the influence of ion channels in the plasma membrane and their pharmacological modification and the novel representation of insulin granules with a combination of light and electron microscopy.
Furthermore, post-transcriptional mechanisms of insulin secretion were shown, as well as membrane potential synchronization and the influence of Rab3A, Rab3B; this, in particular, revealed the complexity of the so simple-sounding topic “insulin secretion”.
In a further session on the improvement of beta cell function, the influence of NMDA receptors in the pancreas and the effect of ANP (atrial natriuretic peptide) on the endocrine pancreas were described. The imaging and modification of networks both in the pancreatic islet cells and in the pancreas and the role of a regulated mitochondrial cycle were discussed as well as new ways to influence beta cell proliferation and survival. Here a newly described role of reactive oxygen species should be emphasized, the stringent regulation of which appears to be important for the beta cell mass. In his keynote lecture on the islet cell pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes, Professor Renstrøm pointed out the influence of alpha 2A adrenergic receptors and the role of different calcium channels in the various phases of insulin secretion.
Identification of novel genes by means of metabolites
New insights into the genetics of diabetes and metabolic syndrome rounded off the workshop. Professor Allayee concluded the meeting by presenting his studies on the genetic investigations of cardiometabolic diseases and atherosclerosis. He described the new approach to identify novel genes by means of metabolites.
Professor Kathrin expressed her delight at how the workshop turned out: “We all have gained great new insights and learned lots of new things. The innovative research approaches as well as the excellent lectures presented by all the students showed how we always try to achieve a better understanding of islet cell biology and thus open new avenues in the treatment of diabetes.”
Many thanks to Professor Maedler for a successful workshop. It was not only successful as far as science was concerned, but also offered the participants a thoughtfully planned evening program which focused on Bremen and North German customs. The next islet workshop will take place in 2017 in Munich (Organization: Prof. Eckhard Wolf).