Innovative, Individual and Sustainable: The DZD at the Diabetes Congress

The DZD presented its translational research in Berlin: Which new forms of diabetes prevention and treatment will benefit patients in the future? What role do individual, personalized approaches play? These questions were the central theme of the Diabetes Congress of the German Diabetes Association (DDG), which took place from May 13th to 16th in Berlin. The newest scientific developments were discussed under the motto “Personalized Diabetology: Innovative – Individual – Sustainable”. More than 60 scientists of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) presented their most recent research findings in lectures and on posters.

Five years after its founding and following its excellent evaluation, the DZD presented its research results and the progress it has made through its research concept to more than 6,000 colleagues, physicians and medical specialists.

Individual preventive concept
At the opening event and subsequent press conference, Congress president and DZD scientist Prof. Dr. Norbert Stefan presented the Pre-diabetes Lifestyle Intervention Study (PLIS) of the DZD. “All patients are different. That is why their response varies in effectiveness to a lifestyle modification,” said Stefan. Until now, a moderate change in lifestyle with a calorie-reduced diet and increased physical activity has been recommended to prevent diabetes. In the PLIS study, by contrast, individual factors were considered: Is the body still producing an adequate amount of insulin? How effective is it? Does the patient have a fatty liver? Patients with high-risk pre-diabetes are recommended an intensive lifestyle modification, including e.g. physical activity for six hours a week.

Translation from the lab to use in humans
Translational diabetes research for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes was the main theme of the DZD symposium, which was held during the Congress. The symposium focused in detail on how findings from basic research can be translated for use in humans. “Preclinical models form an important basis for new discoveries in diabetes research. By working closely with clinical research units in the DZD, the results can be tested more quickly in humans and applied in medical practice,” said Professor Martin Hrabě de Angelis, member of the DZD board and director of the Institute of Experimental Genetics at Helmholtz Zentrum München. Currently more than 150 genes have been identified whose variants may play a role in the pathogenesis of obesity and diabetes.

Excellent research achievements
Several DZD scientists were honored with prestigious DDG research awards: Professor Andreas Birkenfeld, MD, of the Paul Langerhans Institute Dresden (PLID) of Helmholtz Zentrum München at the TU Dresden University Hospital, received the Ferdinand Bertram Prize for his research on metabolic regulation. Professor Andreas Fritsche, MD, Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases of Helmholtz Zentrum München at the University of Tübingen was honored with the Werner Creutzfeldt Award. His colleague in Tübingen, Dr. Martin Heni, was awarded the Silvia King Prize of the DDG. Dr. Angela Hommel, PLID, received the Hellmut Mehnert grant. The Menarini grant was awarded to PD Dr. Sebastian Schmid from Lübeck. Dr. Melina Claussnitzer of TU München (currently a postdoc in Boston) received a grant of the DDG, and the DZD project partner Professor Reinhard Holl of the University of Ulm received the Hans Christian Hagedorn grant. 

Call for sustainability
In the panel discussion on innovative treatments and prevention, representatives from the political arena, science, the statutory health insurance companies and industry focused on the health policy dimension of diabetology. Professor Hans-Ulrich Häring, DZD board member and medical director of Medical Clinic IV of the University of Tübingen, explained the need for action from the perspective of diabetes research: “After the DZD studies have been completed, it is important to translate the results into broad medical practice.” He sees this as threatened due to the phasing out of diabetology departments at university hospitals. Policy makers are called on to work for conditions that ensure a long-term success of research. Because sustainability is also important for the promotion of young scientists, mentoring was provided for talented young researchers at the conference. This new program was also supported by the DZD.
The booth of the German Center for Diabetes Research in the Diabetes Forum, at which the Diabetes Information Service Munich was also represented, offered additional opportunity for exchange. The booth was a welcome contact point for scientists and physicians as well as medical specialists. However, the DZD not only talked about prevention, it set a good example in the Diabetes Run. The entry fee of the runners went for the DZD project "SMS: Be smart. Join in. Be fit”. Conference participants could also hit the dance floor to live music. The performance of the DZD rock band “Sugar Daddies” at the DDG Night rounded off the framework program.