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Ghokan Hotamisligil

Ghokan Hotamisligil

This week I am attending the XI International Conference on Obesity (ICO 2010) in Stockholm. Throughout the conference, I will be posting news and views on my FaceBook page (which you can follow by clicking here).

Although the official sessions start this morning, there have already been several pre-symposia over the past few days, including a two-day preconference on brown adipose tissue.

As readers will recall, the recent discovery that adult humans do in fact have thermogenic brown adipose tissue (BAT), albeit to varying degrees, has spawned a veritable rage of research on this issue. The symposium, which covered everything from molecular and cell biology to clinical studies is certainly a reflection of the keen interest in this area. Clearly, researchers hope that harnessing brown adipose to burn off extra calories may one day prove a viable treatment for obesity (for now so-called “fat burners” plied by the weight loss industry are wishful thinking at best and scams at worst).

At the opening of the main conference, Stephan Rossner expressed his delight at the fact that over 1400 abstracts were submitted to the meeting, which will be attended by an estimated 2300 delegates.

Peter Arner spoke on the policy of the Program Committee to not have invited talks by members of the Scientific Committee or speakers who presented at ICO2009 or ECO (I am guilty on both counts) in order to give ample opportunity to the many younger and lesser known researchers to present their work.

The opening event included the Awards ceremony and a talk by the 2010 Wertheimer Awardee Gokhan Hotamisligil, who stems from Ankara, Turkey, and currently works at the Harvard School of Public Heatlh. His work focusses on the link between obesity, inflammation and immune responses – topics ranging from the discovery of tumor necrosis factor (TNF – a pro-inflammatory cytokine) by fat cells to the importance of endoplasmic reticular stress.

In his presentation, Hotamisligil explained how his work addresses the crossroads between extrinsic and intrinsic inflammation: while the former is driven by external agents (e.g. pathogens), intrinsic inflammation describes the “metainflammatory” response to intrinsic stimuli, i.e. pro-inflammatory factors produced within the body as a result of perturbations in cell function – in his example, the adipocyte.

According to his findings, lipid chaperones, molecules that play a key role in intra-cellular lipid trafficking and signaling as well as in inter-organ communications, may well be important for the low-grade inflammation commonly seen in obese individuals.

Looking forward to an interesting week.

Stockholm, Sweden

For more posts on ICO 2010 click here