Summary of travel to “Frontiers in Islet Biology and Diabetes” conference, Keystone, Colorado, USA, February 4-8 2018
Ofer Elhanani, Dept. of Biomolecular Sciences, Weizmann Institute of Science
Insulin is secreted from pancreatic β cells that reside in the islets of Langerhans. Diabetes mellitus is characterized by hyperglycemia caused by a complete lack of circulating insulin due to β cell death (type I diabetes); or a combination of insulin resistance in the periphery and reduced circulating insulin levels (Type II diabetes).
The “Frontiers in islet biology and diabetes” conference that was held in Keystone, Colorado, USA gathered ~250 leading scientists in the field of β-cell biology and diabetes. The works presented focused on different aspects of islet-cell biology including their development, function and their potential in cell replacement therapy to treat diabetes. A substantial part of presented works
focused on reprogramming of various cell types into β-cells including human embryonic stem cells as well as other mature tissue cells.
My participation in this conference was supported by a D-Cure travel grant. The aim of my PhD research is to uncover molecular mechanisms in reprogramming of exocrine pancreas cells into β cells. I have developed a protocol to reprogram in vitro primary mouse pancreatic acinar cells into insulin producing β cells. This system allowed me to uncover novel regulators of this reprogramming process. Improved understanding of these processes is important to permit their application in the future for regenerative and cell therapy based treatment of diabetes. During the conference, I presented a poster of my work. I was glad to meet many scientists who were interested in my project and came to speak with me to inquire about different aspects of it and to give their input. In addition to new ideas, this enabled me to create new connections with other scientists worldwide. Furthermore, the relatively small size of this conference has made all participants very accessible. It was possible to find the time to have a one on one conversation with many of the scientists present. Therefore, I met several scientists that share common interests with me. Hopefully this will produce new and fruitful collaborations.