After a particularly scenic journey to the Bavarian Alps I arrived at Garmisch Partenkirchen late on the Friday evening. The magnificent mountains towered around the hotel and as we ate our tea Dr Hannah Welters and I excitedly chatted about the following day’s speakers and poster presentations. The conference was spread over a day and a half and was attended by ~150 people. Speakers had flown in from far and wide including America, Japan and Australia.
The Saturday started early as we had a packed day ahead. Talks were given on a wide range of subjects – from islet cell physiology to development and differentiation. For me however the highlight of these talks were those presented by:
1. Susan Bonner-Weir from Harvard who talked on β-cell heterogeneity and rates of β-cell development.
2. Patrick Collombat and Mark Huising who discussed transdifferentiation of α-cells into β-cells and the possibility of neogenic niches within the pancreas.
3. Heiko Lickert who briefly discussed Flattop – a marker gene for β-cell maturation
I presented a poster over the lunch period which was well received; questions asked gave us novel ideas on how we could take the work forward. It was also fascinating talking to fellow researchers about their work as it is easy to get ensconced in your own field and not see the bigger picture. Discovering what others were doing globally was highly motivating, as was speaking to peers who were as passionate about their subject as I am. This continued into the conference dinner, which for me was the highlight of the trip. It was held at a restaurant at the top the Zugspitze – the highest mountain in Germany. We were chauffeured by bus to the station which was located at the foot of the mountain. From here the train travelled right through the rock face to a glacier where a cable car transported us to the peak. On a clear day both Austria and Germany can be seen as the border runs over the western summit but unfortunately there was too much fog. This however did not dampen our enjoyment of the evening and fun was had by all.
Sunday brought the close of the conference and waving goodbye to new friends who promised to keep in touch. Upon my return I have new vigour and a longing to accrue data so that I can return next year armed with more findings on lipotoxicity!