BY: SUSAN KLEIMAN
Published: May 1, 2015
Our lab is returning from the 2015 International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED), which was held from April 22-25th in Boston. UNC CEED Founding Director Dr. Cynthia Bulik delivered the conference’s keynote address, entitled “Towards an Engaged Science of Eating Disorders: Opening the Doors to the Ivory Tower.” Overheard in the conference halls was unanimous praise for the quality of her talk, which was hailed by one attendee as “everything an ICED keynote should be.”
For those who were unable to attend the conference, here is brief synopsis of her engaging and informative address:
- Engaged science is important. In the eating disorders world, this goes beyond two-way communication between researchers and the public to include engaging patients, families/partners/carers, treatment providers, granting agencies, scientists, advocates, and policy makers.
- The Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI) is a prime example of engaged science. In order to overcome the deficiencies of earlier GWAS studies of anorexia nervosa (AN), which lacked sufficient sample size to produce genome-wide significant findings, ANGI has engaged and galvanized the existing infrastructure of advocacy within the eating disorders community. Building a global coalition network, which spans treatment centers, professional organizations, and social media, ANGI is well on its way to achieving its goal of collecting 13,000 samples from individuals with AN and controls by the end of 2016.
[Note: To participate in ANGI, please take our screening survey!]
- Future results from ANGI will help us to better understand the gene-environment interactions that elevate risk for developing AN and the underlying biology of the disorder. We need to rethink the paradoxical reaction that individuals with AN have to negative energy balance and their uncanny ability to maintain a low BMI, even after treatment and recovery. Could there be a role for intestinal microbiota? We also need to rethink why individuals with AN don’t feel as much lethargy, pain, and fatigue as we would expect. Is there a role for the immune system in the maintenance of AN?
- Engaged science is attentive, exposed, scrutinized, accountable, responsible, connected, emotional, and humbling—and critical to moving our field forward!