The lecture sessions covered many important topics in type 2 diabetes research. Leading scientists presented their data followed by fruitful discussions with the audience. Topics included endocrinology and central control, energy metabolism and inflammation as well as environmental influences on the DNA. The experts emphasized diabetes as being a multi-organ disease that includes various molecular pathologies, due to the underlying complex network of hormones derived by the gut and the brain which maintains metabolism and regulates blood sugar, lipids and body weight. This complexity enables the identification of novel targets for therapeutic approaches. Furthermore, epigenetics, environmentally triggered gene activity, and the microbiome, meaning genetic information of intestinal bacteria that contribute to metabolism, may also play an important role for metabolic dysfunction.
A highlight of the conference was having different generations of stellar scientists join this productive research platform. “It is great to finally get to meet all the leading scientists in diabetes research that have achieved major breakthroughs and whose publications I have read,” says a young post doc. The experts were deeply impressed by the talented junior scientists as well. “I am pleased to see a new generation of outstanding researchers and I am convinced that one day they will do a great job taking care of us,” says Prof. Günther Wess, CEO Helmholtz Zentrum München.
Among the prominent scientists at the conference were Jeffrey Friedman from Rockefeller University and C. Ronald Kahn from the Joslin Diabetes Center/Harvard Medical School. For almost twenty years, Friedman has focused on Leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite and body weight. He has pioneered the modern understanding of weight control by central mechanisms. Kahn discovered the multidimensional signaling functions of insulin and works on understanding its impaired effects in patients with diabetes and metabolic syndrome. He was awarded the Helmholtz Diabetes Lecture for lifetime achievement, which honored not only his scientific results, but also his contribution to educating young scientists.
Helmholtz Young Investigator in Diabetes Award
A second prize, the Helmholtz Young Investigator in Diabetes Award, recognized truly outstanding contributions by a young investigator in the field. Of 17 highly qualified nominees, two winners were chosen - Matthew Hirschey (Duke University) for his work on the role of mitochondrial sirtuin in diabetes and Scott Sternson (Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute) for his research on neural circuits that control hunger.
According to the highly pleased organizers, the event was an extremely valuable and memorable opening for this conference series, due to the stellar contributions of all participants who shared their newest results, disclosed their most recent ideas and discussed emerging controversies.