Liveblogging Experimental Biology 2008 (Day 2)

Apr 07 2008 Published by under Blogging, Drug Abuse Science, Tribe of Science

Welcome back to another glorious day in San Diego...which I will spend most of inside the convention center for the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting. I experimented a bit with semi-live blogging yesterday and will continue today.


8:15- first stop, BM approved free wifi enabled coffeeshop Java Jones (located 631 9th Ave).

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I'll plan to go to most of the obesity session today I think.

The Obesity Epidemic - Pharmacological Challenges (Division for Systems & Integrative Pharmacology)
Chair: Ismail Laher
The current molecular model of body weight regulation
Matthias H. Tschoep, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
Pharmacological therapy of obesity
D. Scott Weigle, University of Washington
Physiological regulators of appetite as a basis for pharmacotherapy of obesity
Stephen R. Bloom, Hammersmith Hosp., Imperial College London, UK
The endocannabinoid system as a new regulator of energy balance
Xavier Pi-Sunyer, St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital
Fatty acid metabolism and energy regulation: New pharmacological strategies for obesity therapy
Gabriele Ronnett, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

Why? Well, the drug abuse people are now starting to consider themselves as studying "addictive disorders" broadly writj. One of the reasons driving this subtle change is an appreciation that obesity is a highly fundable growing public health concern which features some compulsive appetitive behavioral patterns with which we are familiar from drug abuse studies. Not to mention that food-reinforced behavioral paradigms are widespread in the drug abuse fields already so the fit is very natural. Did I mention that NIDA has been talking about obesity for over a year now?
11:30- Symposia in which you have and interest and a corner of the puzzle (e.g., endocannabinoid function, Rimanobant) but still come from a different perspective are the most interesting. Partially because when you are in your own domain all the background slides are absolutely snore-inducing. Obesity stats are not something I think about most of the time so it was a nice review. As I mentioned in a comment to bayman's snark, 5,000 excess deaths attributable to obesity in the US are nothing to sneeze at!
Weigle reviewed the dismal pharmacotherapy history from thyroid drugs in the '30s to the Fen-Phen (or is it Phen-Fen) debacle of the '90s that we all remember.
One takehome was yet another reminder of how tenaciously the body defends it's adiposity setpoint. Most "successful" clinical trials maybe get 10% bodyweight reductions as a mean effect. This puts treatment for drug abuse, which I generally deride, in some perspective.
[blogging note: finally found a decent wifi signal for EB2008 upstairs outside the low-number meeting rooms in case anyone is here and looking]
ASPET Centennial: Apparently ASPET turns 100 this year. I note a nifty review of the Women in ASPET.
1PM The PB Dews award in Behavioral Pharmacology went to Charles "Bob" Schuster. He's always good for a decent version of the geezer lecture. He was one of the major figures in creating and sustaining animal self-administration models of drug abuse, directed NIDA under the Reagan administration (which is an interesting story considering he's clearly on the more liberal side!) and trained a bajillion of our current drug-abuse scientists. More notes on this later.
2:15 NeuroPlasticity in Addiction symposium
hmm, the usual players. Koob group, Carlezon, Kalivas (who organized it)...
Update 4/8: Almost forgot, I snapped this photo walking around downtown SD yesterday



10 responses so far

  • bayman says:

    Wow. Just what we need, a psych drug for the overweight. That is some fucked up shit.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    compare 5,000 extra US deaths per year to your favorite other killers...

  • tom says:

    I have never been to this meeting...is there much in terms of addiction or neuro stuff there? I gave the online itinerary search a go to see and it died.
    Also, if you like waffles, you should head to http://www.cafe222.com/ great pumpkin waffles.

  • bayman says:

    Clearly obesity is bad. The question is whether neurological reprogramming with crude pharmacological tools is really the best solution. Especially when we already know of many obvious, non-pharmacological, (and less big-pharma profitable) ways to modify body composition and behavior. Guess there's no money in tooting that horn...
    Is anyone talking about developing a drug to combat nicotine addiction? Seems this is much more clearly an addiction problem than, you know, eating is.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    The question is whether neurological reprogramming with crude pharmacological tools is really the best solution.
    This was part of the point, yes. That the prior "crude" era is giving way to a hopefully less-crude era of pharmacology.
    Especially when we already know of many obvious, non-pharmacological, (and less big-pharma profitable) ways to modify body composition and behavior.
    The fact that you think that it is easy to alter "behavior" with respect to overeating in the face of millennia of selection for our species to put on fat when food is available suggests that your considerations are not well developed.
    Is anyone talking about developing a drug to combat nicotine addiction? Seems this is much more clearly an addiction problem than, you know, eating is.
    okay, now you are just plain yanking my chain bayman. try for a leeetle more subtlety.....

  • NeuroStudent says:

    how was the neuroplasticity in addiction symposium? anything new or same old, same old?

  • bayman says:

    That the prior "crude" era is giving way to a hopefully less-crude era of pharmacology.
    That would be interesting. I don't know jack about neurobiology so I have no opinion on whether this is achievable. But to a skeptic naif like me, it came across as great justification for expanding the antidepressant market.
    The fact that you think that it is easy to alter "behavior" with respect to overeating in the face of millennia of selection for our species to put on fat when food is available suggests that your considerations are not well developed.
    This is an extremely interesting idea. I think what you are basically saying is that people (at least a subset of genotypes) will eat until they kill themselves if the food is available. It's a design flaw of the human body, so we need a drug to save rich North Americans from their inevitable self-destruction. Maybe this is true. It smells a little too simple to me. Not to mention depressingly deterministic. The human body has been selected to do a few other things too. Like long-distance running. So maybe what really distinguishes human evolution is selection for a high degree of neurophysiological (ie brain/muscle/fat) plasticity? A plasticity that clearly can be, and is perhaps most effectively, engaged through endogenous control mechanisms?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    This is an extremely interesting idea. I think what you are basically saying is that people (at least a subset of genotypes) will eat until they kill themselves if the food is available. It's a design flaw of the human body, so we need a drug to save rich North Americans from their inevitable self-destruction.
    Not exactly "until they kill themselves". Many and probably most people who are various stages of "overweight" go for many years at a stable weight. They do not drop dead immediately either, metabolic disturbances, cardiac issues, etc take years if not decades to result in death.
    It is not a "design flaw" either! The phenomenon of cheap and easily available 24/7 sources of high calorie food that are optimized for high-palatability is very recent. Even at present this phenomenon is not universal, even within "developed" countries.
    For the vast majority of human evolution, the ability to store lots of energy as fat when food was available has been highly adaptive to tide over the inevitable periods of scarcity. And if we're going to talk evolution it is also worth pointing out that even in the world of plenty that we in the US occupy, obesity issues are unlikely to seriously disrupt our species' ability to reproduce.
    Do we "need" a drug to save ourselves? Depends on your perspective. From one way of looking at it we don't "need" cancer therapies, or just about any other form of medical care. Just let the ones who make it more-or-less unscathed to about 17 reproduce like bunnies and who cares about saving the rest, eh?
    it came across as great justification for expanding the antidepressant market.
    Cannabinoids and the serotonin drugs like Fen-Phen have effects on appetite that have nothing to do with alleviating "depression". In fact you might view the anorectic properties of indirect serotonin agonists such as fenfluramine (the "Fen" part) as an "amotivational" behavioral effect. the antidepressant properties, on the other hand, counter amotivational and anhedonic states associated with depression. Breadth of action when taken systemically is, of course, why nonselective prior drugs produced such spectacular failures based on untoward side effects.
    This is why the current goal is to try to move on to more specific targets like the gut peptides which seemingly confer a more selective satiety signal.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    how was the neuroplasticity in addiction symposium? anything new or same old, same old?
    I didn't notice anything dramatically new, no.

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