Klinikum Benjamin Franklin, Charite, Berlin
Continuing in my series of past publications on obesity, today’s post is special, because it is about an event that ‘officially’ launched my shift from hypertension into obesity research and for the first time made some of the leading obesity researchers of the time aware of my very existence.
Back in 1998, I had already well-established myself in the hypertension field, being widely recognized as an expert on salt-sensitive hypertension. I was already being invited to speak at various hypertension meetings around the world and was nationally and internationally recognized for this work.
However, it would be fair to say that despite having published a few minor papers on obesity, no one in the obesity arena had ever heard of me. This was by no means surprising as, having attended a few obesity conferences by then, it was evident that few hypertension researchers interacted with obesity researchers and vice versa. Apparently, no one had yet thought of bringing the two research communities together – surprising perhaps, given the fact that obesity is the most common and powerful risk factor for hypertension.
So, perhaps for the first time demonstrating my potential talent as a ‘networker’, I decided to organize the 1st International Symposium on Obesity and Hypertension (ISOH), to which I rather cheekily ventured to invite some of the most distinguished researchers from the obesity field – cheeky, because these folks had certainly never heard of me and I was not offering any honoraria or expensive airplane tickets. I just looked for big names in obesity on the internet and sent out the invitations.
Little would I have imagined that I would assemble a roster of cutting edge ‘big names’ from both the hypertension and obesity communities for a tightly packed two day event in Berlin.
To my lay readers, the names may mean nothing, but to my professional colleagues, the following list probably reads like a ‘who-is-who’ of obesity.
W. P. T. James (Chairman, International Obesity Task Force, Aberdeen, UK) presented new data suggesting that obesity-associated comorbidity may increase rapidly in non-Caucasians with a body mass index as low as 18 kg/m2.
M. E. J. Lean (Department of Human Nutrition, University of Glasgow, UK) presented new data indicating that waist circumference (measured midway between the lowest rib and the iliac crest) is the best clinical marker of intraabdominal fat accumulation and that risks are high enough to warrant professional guidance with a waist over 102 cm in men or 88 cm in women.
R. Negrel (Centre de Biochimie, UMR6543CNRS & IFR349, Faculty of Sciences, Nice, France) and G. Löffler (University of Regensburg, Institute of Biochemistry, Regensburg, Germany), who provided convincing evidence on the presence of the renin-angiotensin system in adipose tissue.
D. L. Crandall (Wyeth Ayerst Research, Radnor, PA, USA) presented a comprehensive review, inncluding historical review of the classical experiments that identified early hemodynamic changes observed in obesity and the important role of neovascularization for the growth and development of adipose tissue.
H. Hauner (Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Düsseldorf, Germany) stressed the point that stromal cells from adipose tissue can undergo differentiation in the presence of defined adipogenic factors, including a variety of hormones and cytokines.
T. Unger (Institute for Pharmacology, Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel, Germany) presented evidence that the AT1 and AT2 angiotensin receptors may play an important role in the growth and development of a variety of tissues, including cardiac, endothelial, and neuronal cells.
F. C. Luft (Franz Volhard Clinic and Max Delbrück Center, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany) presented the results of linkage analysis in an Arab pedigree with familial hypercholesterolemia in which heterozygous persons with normal LDL levels were identified.
T. W. Kurtz (University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA) and M. Pravenec (Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic) presented data indicating that a Cd36 Mutation in some strains of spontaneously hypertensive rat may be associated with insulin resistance in these strains.
X. Jeunemaitre (INSERM U36, College de France, Paris, France) provided new evidence indicating that several polymorphisms located in the 5’ region and in the first intron of the angiotensinogen gene may contribute to the variability of plasma angiotensinogen levels.
M. L. Tuck (Veterans Administration Medical Center, Sepulveda, CA, USA) presented an up-to-date review on the role of the systemic renin-angiotensin system in obesity-related hypertension.
A. Natali (Department of Internal Medicine, University of Pisa, Italy) discussed the role of insulin resistance in obesity-related hypertension and provided data that suggesting that the sympatho-adrenergic system plays an important role in the development of obesity hypertension.
W. G. Haynes (Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA), who discussed the important role of leptinergic and melanocortin influences on the sympathetic nervous system in obesity-related hypertension.
G. Seravalle (Clinica Medica, University of Milan, Italy) studied the effects of the acute blockade of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) secretion induced by dexamethasone (DEX) on the sympathoexcitatory response elicited by insulin.
A. D. Strosberg (Institut Cochin de Génétique Molèculaire, Paris, France) discussed the potential role of beta-3 adrenergic receptors in the development of obesity.
S. L. H. Schiffelers (NUTRIM, Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands) on the effects of beta 1- and beta 2-adrenoreceptors–stimulated thermogenesis and fat oxidation in lean and obese men.
S. Rössner (Huddinge University Hospital, Sweden) presented the first clinical data on a new lipase inhibitor orlistat which reduces the absorption of dietary fat by 30% and reduces weight and blood pressure.
R. Donelly (University of Nottingham, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Nottingham, UK) reviewed the pharmacological treatment of obesity-related hypertension.
P. G. Kopelman (St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and The Royal London School of Medicine, University of London, UK) provided an outlook of the management problems that will become apparent in the early part of the 21st century.
With this roster of leading experts, it was perhaps not surprising that we attracted over 150 attendees from over 30 countries to his ‘impromptu’ meeting.
It turns out that this was to be only the first of a total of four ISOH meetings, the last held in 2005, by which time I had not only made a name for myself in obesity (having been appointed to a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Cardiovascular Obesity Research and Management at McMaster University in 2002), but had also managed to build professional and personal relationships around the world that last to this day.
I also learnt important lessons that formed the very basis for eventually creating the Canadian Obesity Network, now with almost 7,000 members, by far the largest national professional obesity association in the world.
For those, who would like to read more about the symposium, the proceedings were published in Kidney and Blood Pressure Research in 2000.
For anyone who may have attended the event (or any of the subsequent ISOH meetings), I’d love to hear about your recollections of these Symposia.
Sharma AM, Distler A, & Hauner H (2000). International symposium on obesity and hypertension genetics and molecular mechanisms. Genetics and molecular mechanisms Kidney & blood pressure research, 23 (1), 49-72 PMID: 10567854