Every year about half a million people in Germany are newly diagnosed with diabetes. But how can the disease be prevented, treated or even cured? In the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), specialists from different disciplines work together to develop personalized approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and therapy of diabetes in order to combat this widespread disease. “The development of diabetes is a complex process induced by a long-term, multi-layered interaction of genes, lifestyle and environmental factors. Only an integrative research approach which unites different disciplines is able to decipher the complex events of diabetes development,” said Professor Martin Hrabě de Angelis, a member of the DZD-board.
The DZD will present this integrative research approach at the 2017 DDG Diabetes Congress. Under the motto "Diabetes Epidemic: Trend Reversal through Translational Research", DZD experts will report on innovative therapy approaches, the influence of epigenetics on diabetes development, the role of the brain and liver in metabolic disorders, new possibilities of prevention, and current findings from research and from clinical trials. The event (May 26th, 10:30 am - 12:00 noon) will be moderated by the science editor Lilo Berg.
Overweight affects DNA methylation
In addition, the DZD will present current research findings in various scientific forums. In the session “DZD: The genetic and epigenetic code of metabolic dysfunction” (May 25th, 8:00 am) experts will report on which genetic and epigenetic changes lead to metabolic dysfunction. Current studies have found that overweight in people leads to changes at some 200 gene loci. In particular, significant changes were found in the expression of genes responsible for lipid metabolism and substrate transport, but inflammation-related gene loci were also affected. “Lifestyle-induced genetic modifications are one of the keys to elucidating how an organism responds to certain foods and how the course of diabetes differs from individual to individual,” said Professor Annette Schürmann, speaker of the DZD and congress president.
The role of the brain and the liver in diabetes development
Apart from the pancreas, other organs are also affected by a disturbed glucose metabolism. Especially the brain and the liver play an important role in the development of diabetes. In the session “DZD: Diabetes, a disease of the brain?” experts of the DZD, among others, will report on how the brain influences the human metabolism (May 25, 10:00 am). It is known that dopamine plays an important role in the regulation of appetite. New studies show that people who are carriers of both the obesity risk gene FTO as well as a mutation in the dopamine receptor gene have an increased risk for a larger waist circumference, more body fat and low insulin sensitivity.
The effects of a fatty liver on the development of diabetes will be the topic of the session “Development and Treatment of NAFLD”. Professor Michael Roden, a DZD board member and scientific director of the German Diabetes Center, will present an overview lecture entitled "New findings on mechanisms in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)" (May 25th, 10:00 am). DZD scientists have found that even a single intake of a relatively large quantity of saturated fats reduces the sensitivity of the body to insulin, increases fat deposits, and induces changes in the energy metabolism of the liver.
New approaches for regenerative therapies
The pathophysiology of the Langerhans islets is a complex interaction of various molecular mechanisms. In the session “Degeneration and Regeneration of the Islets”, DZD researchers will report on the motility, secretion and degradation of the insulin granules as well as about new approaches to regenerative therapies (May 27th, 9:00 - 10:30 am). There are different variants of the beta cells in the pancreas. Scientists have identified a marker that can distinguish between two cell groups: while one group produces insulin to keep the blood glucose in equilibrium, the others form a reserve pool capable of cell division.
The role of the psyche in people with diabetes is the focus of the event “Stress and Mental Illness” (May 26th 12:30 pm). In the workshop “Bioinformatics in Medical Research” (May 26th, 8:30 am) participants will learn how to optimally and accurately analyze and bundle large data sets, and finally to make them understandable in the overall context.
Congress participants can get information about diabetes research and talk personally with diabetes experts at the DZD stand in the Diabetes Forum in Hall 1.