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Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: Networks, Crosstalks and Interventions: Joint IUBMB-RCB Advanced School-2014

Ujjaini Dasgupta

Participants at the joint IUBMB-RCB Advanced School
Participants at the joint IUBMB-RCB Advanced School  

The complexities and challenges of MetS and associated disorders were the chosen theme of the Advanced School 2014, organized jointly by the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) and Regional Center for Biotechnology (RCB), India, at the Heritage Village Resort in Manesar, Haryana, India from 24th-29th November, 2014.

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Non-communicable chronic disorders (NCD) like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) have been dominating the disease scenario in the last few decades as witnessed by recent transformations in disease pattern. These diseases have been taking a toll globally in terms of mortality and economic burden—WHO reports predict that by 2020 chronic diseases would account for three quarters of deaths worldwide with 70% of mortality caused by CVD and diabetes. Recent clinical studies have also disclosed the implication of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) in various types of cancers and neurological disorders that are emerging threats to human health.

Apart from genetic and epigenetic factors, rapid nutritional transition, urbanization, increasingly sedentary professions, hobbies, lifestyle, maternal-fetal contributions and childhood ‘catch-up’ obesity are some of the key factors that contribute for increased prevalence of diabetes, obesity and MetS. The Joint IUBMB-RCB Advanced School aimed to provide the participants a conceptual framework and exposure to contemporary research, therapeutic strategies, and awareness.

Lectures by experts, intense discussions and interactions, a poster session by participants, and thought provoking brain-storming sessions along with cultural and social events were scheduled over a span of six days. Eighteen faculty members from across the globe mentored thirty one participants (including eleven international participants) selected for the School.

The Advanced School started with welcome address by Dinakar M Salunke, Executive Director, RCB and Angelo Azzi, Former President, IUBMB. K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India inaugurated the School and emphasized on the use of network approach in combating the NCD epidemic. Chitranjan Yajnik, Director of Diabetes Unit, KEM Hospital Pune, delivered the key-note address.

The first session, which covered various aspects of biochemical basis of MetS, was kicked off with an invigorating lecture by Samir Bhattacharya from Vishvabharati University, India. He talked about the signals and regulatory mechanisms by which lipids trigger inflammatory responses leading to insulin resistance. The second session focused on mechanisms linking environmental factors to metabolism and aging in model systems and humans. Participants learnt handling and analysis of elaborate and complex datasets in the context of MetS using systems biology approach in a virtual workshop organized by Kanury Rao, ICGEB, New Delhi.

In third and fourth sessions, mentors talked about various aspects of stress responses during diabetes and MetS and biosignatures associated with these conditions. Chittaranjan Yajnik from KEM Hospital Pune, India delved into the fascinating area of fetal programming of adiposity and diabetes. He stressed on various factors including life course history of nutrition and ‘thrifty’ phenotype hypothesis based on his cohort studies on children and maternal nutrition along with intervention programmes. The last session was dedicated to prevention and therapeutic interventions.

In the first brainstorming session, Shinjini Bhatnagar, THSTI, India talked about importance of clinician-researcher collaboration in the current healthcare landscape, following which, the panel debated the integration of basic and clinical research as one of the solutions for epidemic like diabetes and other NCDs. Chitranjin Yagnik, Angelo Azzi, M. Balsubramanyam (MDRF, India) and Dinakar Salunke, RCB participated in this session moderated by Satyajit Rath, NII, Delhi. The panelists unanimously agreed on the need for more crosstalk, exchange of ideas, and data sharing between scientists and clinicians working on common issues from different angles.

The second brainstorming session was moderated by Nikhil Tandon, where Chitranajan Yajnik, Susanne Mandrup, and Efstathios Gonos participated in the discussion. They talked about the role of cohort studies, genome wide association, and data mining to find possible solutions for MetS. Design and objectives of cohort studies with respect to South East Asia and Europe were discussed along with contributions from GWAS studies for more insights into genetic and epigenetic factors governing the intricacies.

Overall, the Advanced school emphasized on novel aspects and mechanisms in onset of MetS, and prevention strategies creating more awareness on this raging theme. It also stressed the need for bringing together inter-disciplinary scientific and social forums to advocate for policies on awareness programs. The School provided a platform for continuous uninhibited interactions between participants and faculty on scientific queries pertaining to the theme and contemporary science, ascertaining the right problem for research, and career development issues. It also offered exposure to the participants to diverse faculty across the globe opening up exciting future prospects. RCB is planning to organize more such programs in future on emerging scientific areas of national and international importance.

A cultural evening on the third day and the trip to Taj Mahal at Agra that rounded off the School were thoroughly enjoyed by the participants and faculty alike.