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Panelists review highlights in clinical, basic, and translational science from the past year


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3 minutes

Linda DiMeglio, MD, MPH
Linda DiMeglio, MD, MPH

From breakthroughs in understanding the heterogeneity of diabetes to advances in single-cell transcriptomics, the Scientific Sessions symposium The Year in Review—Highlights of the Past Year in Basic, Translational, and Clinical Science featured a panel of three experts reviewing some of the key advances and discoveries in diabetes research and care over the past year.

The session, which was originally presented Sunday, June 5, was livestreamed and can be viewed on-demand by registered meeting participants at If you haven’t registered for the 82nd Scientific Sessions, register today to access the valuable meeting content.

Linda DiMeglio, MD, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, began the session with a review of noteworthy advances in clinical science. Unsurprisingly, she said, numerous studies over the past year looked at various aspects of COVID-19 and its impact on diabetes and diabetes care. Data from some observational studies concerning acute increases in the incidence of diabetes concurrent with the pandemic raised the concern that COVID-19 accelerated, or perhaps even caused diabetes in some people, she said.

David D'Alessio, MD
David D’Alessio, MD

“Initial population-based reports, however, did not confirm this observation,” Dr. DiMeglio said. “Rather, data suggested persons presenting with new-onset diabetes had delayed access to care, leading to more severe acute presentation.”

Additional studies suggested that the “cytokine storm” seen in COVID-19 could acutely injure or stun limited beta-cell reserves, accelerating end-of-disease presentation, she said.

David A. D’Alessio, MD, Professor of Medicine and Chief of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Duke University School of Medicine, reviewed highlights in translational research over the past year, including studies that have contributed to the expanding recognition of heterogeneity in diabetes.

“Findings from multiple studies have shown that, even among patients with dominant pathogenic mutations associated with diabetes, the clinical presentation can vary,” said Dr. D’Alessio, adding that the current diabetes classifications continue to be challenged with examples of variability among the traditional categories.

Silvia Corvera, MD
Silvia Corvera, MD

“Personalized diabetes care based on biomarkers or genetic testing is still imprecise,” Dr. D’Alessio continued. “Polygenic contributions to the clinical course are significant and will require greater understanding to be properly accounted for.”

Silvia Corvera, MD, Professor and Endowed Chair in Diabetes Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, reviewed basic science highlights from the past year, including advances in single-cell transcriptomics that have provided important insights into cellular composition and molecular pathways in tissues that are metabolically relevant in diabetes.

“Single-cell sequencing lets us look at each cell type and figure out what it’s doing at the transcriptional level, and we are seeing potential pathogenic mechanisms that we never had insight into before,” Dr. Corvera said. “Single-cell and single-nuclei transcriptomics, for example, have revealed mechanisms where susceptibility loci might act to increase type 1 diabetes risk, and have revealed a potential new pathogenic role of ductal cells.”

Dr. Corvera also discussed evolving research into induced pluripotent stem cells following reports of implanting beta cells induced from pluripotent stem cells that recently made global headlines. Advances in cell therapies are an exciting new frontier, she said.