In January 2025, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) will host the Deuel Conference on Lipids in Long Beach, California. The conference aims to bring together scientists from industry and academia to discuss the latest research on lipids, with a focus on their roles in major organ systems. ASBMB Today recently interviewed the co-chairs of the conference, Sarah Cohen and Philipp Scherer, to discuss their research interests, the structure of the conference, and the current hot topics in lipid research.
Organizers’ Background and Interest in Lipids:
- Sarah Cohen, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, shared her journey into lipid research. Her fascination began during her postdoctoral work, where she explored lipid droplet dynamics using advanced microscopy techniques. Her lab now delves into lipid droplet organelle contact sites and their role in various cellular processes, including their connection to metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases.
- Philipp Scherer, a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, became interested in lipids during his Ph.D. work on mitochondrial protein import. His research focuses on adipose cells, exploring their functions and roles in diseases. Over the years, Scherer’s work expanded to interorgan communication involving lipids, such as sphingolipids and ceramides, which play crucial roles in metabolism.
History of the Deuel Meeting:
- Both Cohen and Scherer expressed their long-standing involvement with the Deuel Conference on Lipids. Cohen attended one of the meetings in Monterrey, California, and appreciated its unique setting and intimate atmosphere, allowing for meaningful interactions among participants. Scherer has been on the conference board for many years and emphasized the importance of keeping the meeting relatively small and informal to encourage discussions.
2025 Deuel Conference Highlights:
- The 2025 meeting will focus on five major organ systems: liver and adipose tissue, kidney, heart, brain, and the gastrointestinal tract. The co-chairs aim to create a program that balances cellular aspects of lipids, such as lipid droplet dynamics, with whole-system level physiology.
- The organizers prioritize diversity among speakers, aiming for varied perspectives in terms of topics, geography, gender, race, and ethnicity. They encourage trainees to submit abstracts and actively participate in the discussions.
Hot Topics in Lipid Research:
- Cohen and Scherer highlighted several hot topics they hope to cover at the conference. These include lipotoxicity, lipid peroxidation, and ferroptosis—a cell-death pathway dependent on lipid peroxidation. They also want to explore areas like sterols, lipid rafts, novel therapeutics targeting lipid metabolism, and the role of enterocytes as gatekeepers to systemic lipid homeostasis.
- The co-chairs described their collaboration as a pleasure. Cohen, relatively new to organizing conferences, expressed excitement about working with Scherer, who provided valuable mentorship. They anticipate a great program and meeting in the beautiful setting of Long Beach, California.
About Harry J. Deuel:
- The conference is named after Harry J. Deuel, Jr. (1897–1956), a biochemist and nutritionist who made significant contributions to lipid and food science during the mid-1900s. Deuel’s work focused on the nutritional value of lipids, and he played a crucial role in demonstrating the adequacy of fortified margarine as a nutritional alternative during World War II. His contributions also include the discovery of substances preventing flavor reversion in edible fats and the use of sorbic acid as an antifungal agent and preservative in food packaging and cosmetics.