Just in case you’re wondering, I did not receive anything for attending this symposium, or for writing about it. I paid my fee to attend, I drove to Charlottesville, and I made (and paid for) my own accommodations.
Going to the Manning Diabetes Symposium at the University of Virginia Medical Center was an amazing experience. To be honest, I was a bit worried about being in the same room with all of the brainiacs in attendance. I was surprised when I received my badge for the symposium and saw that it had my name and my blog address on it. Instantly, I thought Oh No, they’re going to know I’m a writer! Then I thought… Cool!
I was speaking to someone about a month ago, and they were talking about being in meetings with industry executives and other very important people in their field, and wondering sometimes whether they really belonged. I said this, and I really believe it: We all deserve to be in the room. We deserve to be part of the discussion. We shouldn’t take our participation for granted, but we definitely deserve to be there. If you get a chance to attend something like this, I encourage you to go and be part of it. After all, they’re talking about things that are very important to you. Don’t you want to know what’s going on?
Friday’s lectures began with information from three heavyweights in the diabetes research arena: Guillermo Arreaza, MD from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institue of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK); Dr. Richard Insel, Chief Scientific Officer at JDRF; and Marc Anderson, Senior Program Officer for the Helmsley Type 1 Diabetes Program, part of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. They all covered what they’re about and what they’re working on right now. Dr. Insel, in particular, gave a very compelling presentation. I’m very appreciative of what these three groups do to research and study diabetes, therapies, and new technology.
What they didn’t talk about, and what I’m concerned about for the future, is this: I have a good job, with good benefits. So I have access to new therapies and new technology when it’s available. But there are many in the USA who do not. And there are many around the world for whom a diabetes diagnosis amounts to a death sentence. I’d like to know what these three organizations are doing to study or address that.
Then there were two compelling talks focused on genomics and diabetic complications. Jesus Flores, MD and PhD from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, covered the work that his group is doing on research and analysis of genome-wide association studies of Type 2 Diabetes. In addition, he leads research for the Diabetes Prevention Program, studying genetic variants on the development of diabetes. And those are just two of the things he’s involved in.
Rama Natarajan, PhD from City of Hope in California gave a super presentation on Epigenetics in Type 1 Diabetes and its Complications. That description sounds pretty nerdy, and it might be hard to understand, but trust me: I was hanging on every word. Honestly, if I was looking for someone to speak at a diabetes conference, she would be near the top of my list.
Then it was on to Immunointerventions and Cellular Therapy. Presenting was Dr. Kevin Herold, Professor of Immunobiology and Medicine at Yale University; Dr. Camillo Ricordi from Diabetes Research Institue; and Dr. Matthias von Herrath, VP and Director of Novo Nordisk’s Type 1 Diabetes Research and Development Center. They each gave tons of information related to studies designed to identify potential targets for cellular and immune system therapies for the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes. I’m skeptical when it comes to this kind of research, but I’m glad that they’re all involved in it. We need to explore every available possibility, and this is one of those possibilities.
So now, let me back up to Thursday evening. There was something called a Poster Session. Maybe you’ve heard of this, but I had never seen it before. Basically, there was a separate room containing about a dozen bulletin boards. On each side of the bulletin boards were posters containing information on diabetes studies recently completed or currently underway (including the one I’m participating in! I felt special). Next to about half of the posters were people who were leading or directly involved somehow in the studies. It was great to read about important investigations being done and then speak to the experts who were getting their hands dirty in the research. It was absolutely the best part of the symposium for me.
Here’s a tidbit: A study was done looking for a link between certain personality traits and management of blood glucose. The results? People who tested as “conscientious” has more lows and were at higher risk for lows than others in the study. People that tested as “industrious” had higher BG variability. People noted as “independent and achievement oriented” had fewer normal range BGs, had a higher BG risk, and had higher BG variability. People who tested as just “independent” had significantly lower BG variability. And people with “openness and understanding” had fewer lows, but fewer normal range values. They were at a lower risk for lows, but higher risk for highs. Didn’t see all that coming, did you?
So that’s it. Thanks to everyone who organized and presented this sypmosium. I’m very glad I could be there. If you have any questions about any of the presentations or the presenters, please let me know.