Fancy conferences 2.0

What a week! What a week!

Yeah, I am writing this post on the (low cost) flight that is taking me back to London in the middle of the night. From where (?) you might be asking…heheheheh…curious people!

Well, I have just left another of our fancy conferences. It was the 51st annual meeting of the EASD in Stockholm (Sweden). No worries, I am not here to auto-celebrate any prize or award being given to me, not this time at least! Indeed I had my agenda well packed as I had been given the chair of a poster session and the opportunity to share my first results of this MCIEF project with the scientific community through an oral presentation in one of the sessions. In particular, I was enlisted in the OP 29 The complex world of beta cell secretagogues session with a presentation entitled Diet-derived short chain free fatty acids stimulate insulin secretion from mouse and human islets. (
Like my previous experience in 2014, it was quite a challenge, again: 10 minutes talk and 5 minutes for questions. In general I am not really good at judging my own work, so I cannot say if I did it right or wrong. What I can strongly affirm is that, surprisingly, I quite enjoyed the Q&A part as I received some interesting advice on how to proceed further with my study. The inputs came from researchers of different institutions across the globe (in particular Geneva and Sydney), which made it even more important to me.
Indeed, I wasn’t the only member of my department attending the meeting, nor even the only one giving an oral presentations. I would like to mention the PhD students in the facilitated poster sessions, in the oral sessions and (with no offence for the others) our “crazy” Spanish colleague in particular, who did a superlative job in her very first oral presentation of her research career. Although she is still blaming herself for having a  Spanish accent (too many “es” here and there), I wonder if you agree with me when I say that it is exactly this different accent that make us non British so damned interesting?!


Sometimes I can make a miracle just by using an “open vowel” English on purpose!!!


It was also nice to meet again with members of other laboratories…in particular I keep bumping into 3-4 colleagues from other countries at every conference I go to. The world is such a small place…or maybe this is a sign I am really being sucked into the Science vortex?

Unfortunately there was little or no time for fun as I had to anticipate my return to London due to a change of plans in my work schedule…fair enough: aren’t we always in juggling mode?!

Again about signals and antennae

If you recall the post #2, you will remember that communication between different cells of the body occur via signals that are released and captured by antennae docked on the top of the cell dome (the cell membrane). Initially I said that these signals are then translated into effects as a result of further talk within the cells themselves. So the consecutive transmission of signals (through ligands, remember) coming from the outside to the internal side of the cells is termed “signal transduction” or, more friendly, “signaling cascade”, as the information goes in a sort of “top to bottom” approach, falling from the top of the cell dome towards the grounds. Like a secret whisper that is transmitted from neighbour to neighbour, our signal is passed along by intermediators that we call generally “second messengers”. Biochemically we define a second messenger as a molecule that increases upon a stimulus above a steady state quantity for a short time, to further return to its initial concentration when the signal has been transmitted (imagine the waves generated by the movements of the oceans: each wave might well represent a signal transduction from the horizon to the shoreline). Thus we now understand that this fluctuation is the core of the transmitting system…and guess what, in the ancient Latin language a fluctus is indeed a wave!

No need to mention that we (islet biologists) are very interested in understanding what waves are generated upon the binding of a ligand to a receptor as they are the intracellular intermediators of the results we observe in terms of insulin secretion. Examples of second messengers involved in the release of the insulin granules (please allow me to explain this terminology successively) are represented by small ions (like calcium) as well as newly synthesised molecules such as ATP (the cellular currency) and one of its derivatives, cyclic AMP. Other players are generated from the enzymatic conversion of fats that are components of the cell dome. Nevertheless, it should not surprise you if we actually g monitor their fluctuation and their generation within the islets of Langerhans, and in particular the beta cells.

I think this post has become heavy enough for this round…so, keep following me in my future publishing to discover how we perform this particular kind of magic! (and indeed there’s going to be some colourful pyrotechnic arts too!)