Examining Science Neoclassical Style: Beta Cell Workshop ISG 2017

May 18, 2017


After a slightly unexpected delay in Bristol I arrived in Dresden for the Beta Cell Workshop & Islet Study Group joint meeting. The program promised a fantastic few days of talks examining many aspect of beta-cell biology from some of the most respected names in the field. It became quickly clear, that Michele Solimena and the other organizers had put on a fabulously organized meeting, and the great bounty of food and drink stimulated scientific discussion throughout each day and well into each night.

The science itself was brilliant throughout, but outstanding in places. We heard from Matthias Hebrok about his new methods to form enhanced human beta-cells from stem cell progenitors, and from Anil Bhushan who described a series of fascinating data suggesting that islets from patients with type 1 diabetes may be senescent. Guy Rutter elaborated on his hypothesis that some islets cells were ‘hubs’ with increased connectivity to surrounding cells, and Stephan Speier described an incredibly cool method of visualizing pancreatic islets in vivo. The quality of science was such that it was hard to pick a highlight.


The poster sessions were held over two evenings, and each had generous time allocated to ensure the presenters could fully explain their work to anyone interested. The interest was such that on both nights many people were still talking science around their posters at least an hour after the session had ended. For my own part, I presented data generated by Afi and myself, and received plenty of interest and helpful comments. In this work we had conducted a series of experiments revealing that the transcription factor STAT6 promotes the survival of pancreatic beta-cells, but this protein is lost in type 1 diabetes potentially rendering the cell more vulnerable in the disease. Impressive work by Sarah and others was also presented in one of the oral sessions and was delivered by collaborator Teresa Rodriguez Calvo. She described a gargantuan multi-lab effort to search for evidence of viral infection in the pancreas of individuals with type 1 diabetes. These data add to the growing evidence that certain viruses may target the pancreatic beta-cells for infection, and this event may trigger the development of the disease.


On the various social events I had the pleasure of chatting to collaborators from Munich and London, and several other scientists I had not previously met. The final social event, the farewell dinner, was held at the impressive Schloss Albrechtsberg which overlooks Dresden, it was a wonderful occasion and a fitting end to an excellent meeting.    



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