By Sufian Suderman, Senior Executive, Research Administration & Support Services
By 2030, the number of Singaporeans aged 65 years or older is estimated to double to one in four from one in eight today. With this rapidly ageing population, Singapore faces a potential epidemic of age-associated diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, musculoskeletal issues and high cholesterol. As a public health institution, LKCMedicine is committed to develop research strategies and solutions to tackle these challenges.
From 16 to 18 August 2016, LKCMedicine brought together world-class scientists and clinicians to participate in the School's inaugural Diabetes and Musculoskeletal Health Week. Events for the week were fronted by LKCMedicine's Dean Professor James Best, a renowned diabetes researcher himself, who highlighted LKCMedicine's focus on treating age-associated musculoskeletal degeneration as well as combating diabetes through modulation of islet mass and functions.
The week kick-started with the Musculoskeletal Health – Ageing and Regeneration Seminar, held at the LKCMedicine's Novena Campus on 16 August. Highlighting the challenges and the goals of this seminar, Curtin University's Professor Victor Goh said, “Musculoskeletal health issues are one of the major problems confronting health in Singapore, affecting both men and women. We have had not a good overall picture of a population's bone health and the major factors that affect bone health status as it is a complex issue. This seminar brought various stakeholders of various disciplines together leading to a comprehensive integrated approach for the community.”
Throughout the day, engineers, scientists and clinicians discussed a wide range of topics that covered all aspects of ageing and regeneration – from the operating theatres to research labs. Potential therapeutic solutions were also discussed, such as the use of stem cells in personalised treatments to fight ageing.
LKCMedicine's Assistant Dean for Research and Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology Fabian Lim saw the seminar as a good starting point for future dialogues. He said, “The seminar is very successful, looking at the way the audience responded to the topics and also the extent the speakers went to put their presentations together. When you have the passion, all you need is a good strategy to organise that energy so that it generates very productive work and solutions.”
Following the Musculoskeletal Health – Ageing and Regeneration Seminar, experts were invited to the Islet Biology and Diabetes Symposium on 18 August. Jointly organised by LKCMedicine and A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular & Cell Biology, this seminar brought together leading experts to discuss the latest developments and trends of type 1 diabetes (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D).
Given the high prevalence of T2D, Imperial College London’s Professor Guy Rutter gave the first keynote address at the symposium. He said, “My main research focus is on how genes affect diabetes. Once we have identified the molecular mechanisms at play, what we seek to do is to identify new drugs and therapeutic strategies which can take advantage of these insights.” To achieve his research goal, Prof Rutter talked about his research in beta cell function using a variety of genetic tools, alongside in vitro and in vivo imaging techniques including optogenetics and photopharmacology.
Despite the prevalence of T2D discourse in the public, T1D issues are equally important. Internationally-renowned T1D expert, Université libre de Bruxelles Centre for Diabetes Research Professor Decio Eizirik brought gravitas to the discussion of T1D issues during the second keynote address. He talked about how his ongoing work on disease-associated genetic variants affects pancreatic beta cell responses to inflammation and the subsequent triggering of autoimmune responses which lead to the progressive beta-cell loss in T1D.
Summarising the current state of T1D research, Prof Eizirik commented, “At the moment, we are getting to understand more about T1D more than ever before. The big challenge is that it is not yet being translated into better therapies as we have not reached the point of translating this into better therapies.”
Throughout the symposium, insights on the latest clinical studies and trials were featured along with the latest bio-imaging technologies.
Following the success of the inaugural week, LKCMedicine is organising the second Musculoskeletal Health – Ageing and Regeneration Seminar on 26 October 2016.
Participants from researchers to surgeons and clinicians attended the Musculoskeletal Health - Ageing and Regeneration Seminar getting valuable insights from distinguished local and overseas speakers