I am delighted to see the proceedings of the first International Symposium on Alcoholic Liver and Pancreatic Diseases (ALPD) and Cirrhosis published in this issue of Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. The symposium assembled 131 scientists from 10 nations, all of whom had a special interest in cellular and molecular research on ALPD and cirrhosis. It provided a forum at which 27 speakers and 46 poster presenters were able to share their insight and expertise on the following major themes common to ALPD: cell death and survival; oxidant stress, inflammation, and genetics; metabolism, cancer and genetics; and stellate cell biology. This issue contains mini-review papers contributed by symposium speakers as well as a summary of discussions made on global research collaboration.
I was driven by three key concepts in formulating the objectives and format of this symposium. The first concept is the definition of ALPD, constituting the two most common alcohol-associated lifestyle diseases (AALSD) that threaten many nations around the world. Alcohol abuse is ranked as one of the leading risk factors in both developed and developing countries, which attests to the fact that alcohol-associated health problems, particularly ALPD are and will continue to be important global issues. To face this global challenge, we need to exercise a global approach. In this respect alone, the international symposium was of significance. The symposium also hosted a separate session on global research collaboration to specifically address logistic issues concerning international collaboration. The second concept relates to the fact that alcohol synergistically interacts with other risk factors common in contemporary societies such as obesity and diabetes to produce serious pathologic consequences. These cross-interactions, including gene–environment interactions, are largely responsible for determining predisposition to ALPD. To address these highly complex pathogeneses, it is essential to consider an integrated biology approach that allows molecular delineation at the interfaces of these interactions. To this end, the symposium allocated slots for presentation on diverse topics including comorbidities (viral hepatitis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, insulin resistance), genetics, and developmental biology. Third, the liver and pancreas share developmental, anatomical, biological and pathological commonalities while having distinct features in other aspects. For this reason, it made sense to unite experts on these two organs that become targets of AALSD, to engage in discussions on the scientific disciplines common to both.
Inspiring scientific sessions were followed by even more invigorating discussions on global collaboration. We are grateful that we had delegates from the Institute of Nutritional Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Professors Xianglin Shi and Jia Luo), the Japanese Society of Gastroenterology (Professors Kenji Fujiwara, Saburo Onishi, Michio Imawari), and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Drs Sam Zakhari and Vishunu Purohit). These delegates confirmed their commitment to promote ALPD research at the global level. Professor Andy Johnson (Director, Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, USC), effectively set the stage for this session by presenting his experiences in China with the Asian Pacific Transdisciplinary Tobacco and Alcohol Use Research Center. Professor Zuo-Feng Zhang (Associate Chair, Department of Epidemiology, UCLA) who will initiate a large cohort study on alcohol drinking and health effects in collaboration with Professor Xianglin Shi, also participated in round-table discussions on specific strategic planning for USA–China collaboration. Other panelists included prominent international investigators from Germany (Professors Manfred Singer and Max Bachem), Spain (Professor Jose Fernandez-Checa) and Australia (Professor Jeremy Wilson). Although the time for this session was limited, lively discussions centered on the National Institutes of Health mechanisms of funding for international collaboration, identification of specific resources and human populations that catalyze collaborations, and planning future meetings.
We witnessed our primary objectives come to fruition at the symposium. The science presented was outstanding and discussions exchanged were enlightening. Moreover, we felt spontaneously united by mutual interests and goals, as well as a strong sense of camaraderie. The charming atmosphere at the venue in Marina del Rey and a delightful cruise dinner also helped. We have received an overwhelmingly positive response from the attendees of the symposium and many have requested that the symposium continue on a biannual basis. This proposal has been entertained by representatives from different nations and we are thrilled that some have shown an interest in hosting future meetings. It is my hope that we start a tradition together and continue active discourse in a concerted effort to facilitate accelerated progress in the study of ALPD.
Last but not least, on behalf of all who attended the symposium, I would like to thank Anne Taguchi, Rosy Macias, and Jessie Orozco for their dedicated work, which made the preparation, organization, and logistic implementation of the symposium flawless.