In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over one-third of US adults are obese, and that the medical costs associated with obesity in 2008 were estimated at $14.7 billion, with rates and costs expected to increase. The molecular and epidemiological cause of this emerging epidemic in the US and world populations was the basis of the 6th Annual Integrative Biology Symposium, held on April 24th. This year’s topic was “Obesity and Human Health.”
The Integrative Biology Symposium was started in 2008, with the goal to “host an interdisciplinary symposium that would help to bring the broader Dartmouth community interested in biomedical research together,” according to Professor Jason Moore. “Another important goal was to provide a forum for students to showcase their work and to interact with national and international leaders.” Past symposia topics have included “Human Microbiome in Health and Disease” (2012), “RNA and Disease: Beyond the Central Dogma” (2011), “Clinical and Translational Research” (2010), “Emerging Technology” (2009), and more generally, the inaugural event covered biostatistics, genomics, bioinformatics, and proteomics (2008).
Of the 200 registrants for this year’s symposium, 98 were students, 14 of whom presented posters at an evening poster session on April 23rd. Winners of the poster session were graduate students Jeremy Huckins (Psychological and Brain Sciences), Corina Lesseur (Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine), and Jie Tan (Molecular and Cellular Biology, first year), as well as undergraduate students, Rachael Bornstein (Dartmouth Class of 2014) and Brad Stubenhaus (from Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire).
Speakers at the symposium consisted of three from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth: Diane Gilbert-Diamond, PhD, Richard Rothstein, MD, and Benjamin Moyer, PhD, as well as six outside speakers: Pamela Goodwin, MD (Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Canada), Ruth Loos, PhD (Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, New York), Cecilia Lindgren, PhD (Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Oxford University, United Kingdom), David Allison, PhD (University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama), Lee Kaplan, MD, PhD (Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts), and the keynote speaker, Joel Hirschhorn, MD, PhD (Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts).
These nine speakers discussed topics encompassing the genetics of obesity, Western diets as agents of obesity, innovative interventions for weight and diabetes management, the application of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to identify potential biomarkers for elevated obesity risk, and many others.
The Integrative Biology Symposium is sponsored by a number of Dartmouth-affiliated groups and programs, including the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (iQBS), the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program (SRP), the Dartmouth Lung Biology Center, the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center at Dartmouth, and the New Hampshire Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (NH-INBRE). In order to choose the symposium themes, topics are discussed and voted on by the Integrative Biology Committee, which meets monthly to plan and organize the yearly symposium. The theme for 2014 will be “Global Health.” According to Professor Moore, the group tries to pick themes which will broadly appeal to researchers across campus.
It appears that so far, the committee has been successful. Biochemistry graduate student Kelli Hvorecny stated, “I think the Integrative Biology Symposium is a great forum bringing the disparate research disciplines at Dartmouth together for discussion on a topic that touches all of their research. The exposure to techniques and fields of study that I do not encounter on a daily basis triggers outside-of-the-box ideas for my own research, often to my benefit.” When asked to provide a potential topic for a future symposium, Hvorecny suggests, “From molecules to medicine: Integrating the sciences spanning biochemistry to patient care.”
by Jeanine Amacher
photos by Carolee Crossmon