I am very excited to report that the American Physiological Society in partnership with The Physiological Society held a joint meeting from July 29-31 in Dublin, Ireland. The keynote lectures were given by Dr. Jerry Friedman from Rockefeller University and Dr. W Jon Lederer from the University of Maryland.
Dr. Friedman spoke about his research on obesity and how genetic factors might play a role. In fact, his team was responsible for discovering the obesity (ob) gene in mice in 1994 and identifying the similar gene in humans. The gene encodes the now iconic hormone leptin, which is responsible for signaling the brain to lower food intake thereby preventing weight gain. When this gene is inhibited, mice become obese (see image above).
Dr. W Jon Lederer spoke about his discovery of the role of calcium signaling in the heart and its importance for maintaining a normal cardiac rhythm in addition to his more recent work understanding mitochondrial function in the heart.
Other Seminars of Interest:
Dr. Laura Bennet (University of Auckland) presented her research examining the effects of fetal exposure to low oxygen environments and infections as well as her work towards developing potential treatments or ways to identify babies at risk of such exposures. Although her lab is not studying Zika virus, research such as hers is very important in understanding and treating diseases that can affect the developing fetus.
Several other scientists spoke in a session entitled “Animal models of sleep: from 100 billion to 302 neurons.” In this session, sleep physiology of c. elegans and zebrafish as well as humans was discussed. The purpose was to explore what is known about sleep physiology for animals that have fewer neurons and less complex brains than humans. Using simpler animals models allows researchers to develop common themes for understanding the mechanisms associated with sleep and may lead to new therapies for sleep disorders.
Another session focused on the physiological effects of being inactive. Physical inactivity is associated with diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Scientists in this session discussed possible ways to prevent health risks arising from physical inactivity as well as gaps in our current knowledge about the implications of physical inactivity.
Other researchers discussed how the microbes living in our gut can impact our health.
You can watch a video of the Plenary lecture presented by Dr. Bert Sakmann (Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Germany) about neural networks in the brain that was filmed during the conference. Be sure to skip forward to 7:32 minutes in the video for the start of the content.