Neuherberg, 29.11.2021

Young Talents and Renowned Diabetes Researchers in Exchange

At the DZD Diabetes Research School of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) international diabetes experts informed more than 250 young scientists about the latest developments in diabetes research. The online event took place in October.

The international DZD Diabetes Research School (DRS) addresses PhD students and postdocs from the natural sciences as well as scientifically active physicians in the field of diabetes research. Six diabetes research keynote speakers provided information on current research topics - from mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance of metabolic disease to more targeted diabetes therapies through the identification of diabetes subtypes as well as lifestyle interventions. This year, the DRS was held as an online seminar series over three afternoons from October 7-14, 2021. The focus was on translational research aspects: at each session, the topic was highlighted by presentations from two speakers focusing on basic and clinical research, respectively.


Epigenetic inheritance of metabolic diseases
Valérie Grandjean from the Université Côte d'Azur (FR) reported on lifestyle-related epigenetic changes in the mouse model, which are inherited by the next generation and thus increase the risk for diet-related metabolic diseases. One major insight from the talk is that "you are what your father ate." Klaus Kästner of the University of Pennsylvania (US) presented human data showing that in many people, insulin producers become less active with age. This is also due to changes in the cellular epigenome.

Toward precision medicine for diabetes
Miriam Udler (Harvard Medical School, US) and Paul Franks (Novo Nordisk Foundation, DK) outlined future prospects for precision medicine for diabetes. Miriam Udler reported that defining subgroups of type 2 diabetes opens up new possibilities for predicting individual disease risks and tailoring prevention and therapy to the individual. Paul Franks furthermore highlighted that the development of precision medicine for diabetes is gradual and always with the individual patient at the center.

Nutritional strategies against type 2 diabetes 
The closing session focused on the influence of eating behaviors on the development of type 2 diabetes and treatment through lifestyle interventions. Pam Taub from the University of California (US) broke a lance for interval fasting. She showed that patients' metabolic health and well-being improves when eating in restricted time windows. Weight drops without actively restricting the amount of food eaten. Roy Taylor of Newcastle University (UK) contrasted this with drastic calorie reduction as an effective therapy: Weight reduction of 15 kg is an effective strategy to reverse incipient type 2 diabetes and restore normal glucose regulation, he said. 

Science and innovation in diabetes care 
Already in the run-up to the series, a DRS satellite seminar on the EIT Health project "integtrated Personalised Diabetes Management goes Europe (iPDM-GO)" was offered with the topic of personalized diabetes management (October 5).  Here, Lutz Heinemann and Freimut Schliess (both Profil Institut für Stoffwechselforschung GmbH) together with their colleagues Karsten Vrangbæk (University of Copenhagen, DK), Claus L. Cramer-Petersen (Dawn Health, DK), Rui Wang-Sattler (DZD) and Dagmar Kownatka (Roche) presented the concept and results of the EIT Health project on integrated personalized diabetes management and its implementation in the context of "value based health care".

Intuitive platform creates a virtual home for the Diabetes Research School
On the interactive event platform the young talents were able to actively participate in the DRS and exchange ideas and network with each other as well as with the speakers. The digital guestbook created a low-threshold online networking opportunity.

In each session, four international young researchers presented their projects in "Lightning Talks" in the "Community Area". On an interactive pinboard, the presenters revealed their visions for tomorrow's diabetes research and were able to discuss them with the other participants. Just a click away, further discussions and informal conversations were possible each evening at the closing get-together in the networking area.

 Return to face-to-face meeting next year
"This year, the DZD Diabetes Research School was again held as a virtual lecture series. Our new event platform allowed us to offer participants more than just virtual lectures. The digital guestbook increased the visibility of the young scientists in the research community," explains Dr. Brigitte Fröhlich, head of the DZD NEXT young scientist support program. "The online format has some advantages, not only can we attract top-notch international speakers more easily, but also a larger audience. But after two years of virtual events, we crave face-to-face contact again - the special spice of any Diabetes Research School."

The virtual DRS was well received by participants from 22 different countries, as evidenced by the positive feedback and lively discussion of the presentations and lightning talks. Even though certain formats of the DZD continuing education program will continue to be held as an online event in the future, it is firmly planned that next year's DRS will be held as a face-to-face meeting in September, prior to the EASD meeting in Stockholm.

DRS21 participants had a variety of online networking opportunities. ©DZD

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Birgit Niesing

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