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The number of people suffering from type 1 diabetes has grown in recent years in Europe and the rest of the world, with an increase in the number of cases seen in children. A total of 285 million people around the world are affected by diabetes and this figure is expected to reach 435 million by 2030.

With the aim of finding a cure to this disease and treating it, global experts in the field are meeting today, Thursday 18, and tomorrow, Friday 19 November, at CosmoCaixa in Barcelona for the symposium entitled Joint strategic meeting. Type 1 diabetes. New treatments and strategies for the new decade. This symposium is organized by the International Center for Scientific Debate (ICSD) —driven by Biocat and “la Caixa” Welfare Projects— in conjunction with the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the Center for Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy (CBATEG–UAB) and the Biomedical Research Center in Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Disorders (CIBERDEM).

Participants in the inaugural event of this key international meeting included the president of the Biocat Executive Committee, Manel Balcells; director of Science, Research and Environment at the “la Caixa” Foundation, Enric Banda; director of the Center for Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy (CBATEG), Fàtima Bosch; president of the European Association for the Study of the Diabetes (EASD), Ulf Smith; and president of the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD), Philippe Halban.

According to the director of the CBATEG, Fàtima Bosch, this meeting focusing on future strategies to cure and treat type 1 diabetes “will provide a framework through which researchers can develop cutting-edge therapies to benefit all those affected”.

Innovative therapies

The symposium, which has brought together a total of 25 expert speakers from the field and some thirty young researchers from Catalonia and the world, aims to encourage innovative therapies to treat type 1 diabetes using stem cells, gene therapy, regenerative medicine and immunotherapy, as well as establishing a strategic plan for future research.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects all the organs in the human body. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that allows the body to obtain energy from food. Type 1 diabetes appears mainly during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, and is a life-long disease. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the human body produces insulin but can't use it efficiently to obtain energy from food. It is normally diagnosed in adults and does not always need to be treated with insulin injections. However, increased levels of obesity in some segments of the population has led to an increase in type 2 diabetes among young people.

Diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans (7.8% of the population), according to the JDRF, and 55.2 million Europeans, according to data from the International Diabetes Federation. In the USA, more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with some type of diabetes each year, while in Europe in number reaches 17.1 million. Experts warn that only by stepping up global research, in which Europe plays a key role, will we be able to find a cure for this disease.

Insulin is the main treatment for diabetes but does not cure this disease that can lead to kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, amputations, stroke, and complications during pregnancy (diabetics are twice as likely to suffer from these afflictions as those without diabetes). In some cases, it can reduce life expectancy by 7 to 10 years.

Limited access to insulin in underdeveloped countries can lead to severe problems and even premature death in diabetic children.

In Catalonia, the estimated total for people with diabetes is around 410,000 (according to the 2006 Catalonia Health Survey, carried out by the Government of Catalonia). The Catalan type 1 diabetes register, which was initiated in 1987, provides information regarding the age of onset in children and young people. Between 130 and 150 children and young people under 14 are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year.

According to experts, “while clinical and research efforts need to improve the existing therapeutic strategies, there is also considerable need for new, alternative diabetes treatments”.

World Diabetes Day

Sunday14 November was World Diabetes Day. The World Health Organization and the International Diabetes Federation celebrate this day in order to raise awareness of the reach, characteristics and possible consequences of this disease among diabetics, healthcare professionals and society in general. They also seek to draw attention to the benefits and positive repercussions of appropriate treatment and control, as well as a healthy lifestyle.

World Diabetes Day commemorates Frederik Grant Banting who, together with Charles Best, first conceived of the idea that led to the discovery of insulin in 1921. Thanks to this breakthrough, diabetes went from a deadly disease to being treatable.

International Center for Scientific Debate (icsd)

The ICSD is an initiative of Biocat with support from “la Caixa” Welfare Projects, which aims to drive top-notch international scientific events to promote dialog, collaboration, and open exchange of ideas, projects and knowledge among experts of renowned national and international prestige. Through these events, the center will generate advanced debate on the various disciplines that intertwine in the life sciences field and their repercussion on society, contributing to Catalonia’s position as a country of scientific excellence.

The ICSD calendar of events is created through a call for proposals open to the Catalan scientific community and international scientists that work with researchers and/or research centers from this area. Proposals must be led by a renowned researcher and focus on the disciplines that intertwine to make up the field of life sciences and its impact on society. They should pay special attention to the frontiers of science, transversality (a variety of related scientific disciplines), internationalization (guest speakers, scientific lines, etc.) consolidated relevance, potential for the area and social interest.

Proposals received will be evaluated by the ICSD Scientific Committee, which is in charge of selecting the proposals that will be included in the Calendar of Events. After the final resolution of the call for proposals is made public, ICSD project management will contact applicants to formalize collaboration conditions and begin working on the details of the event.

For more information:
Biocat Press Office: F&A • Phone +34 93 419 19 86 •

Other contacts:
Adela Farré (Biocat) • Phone +34 93 310 33 69 • M. +34 626 992 057 •
Silvia Labé (Biocat) • Phone +34 93 310 33 69 • M. +34 662 315 400 •

“la Caixa” Welfare Projects Communication Department:
Irene Roch • +34 93 404 60 27 •

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