Local Scientists on Cutting Edge of Diabetes Research

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 5, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Local Scientists on Cutting Edge of Diabetes Research


Byline: Janice Youngwith

With diabetes ranking as one of the nations most prevalent, debilitating and deadly diseases, its no wonder researchers are hot on the trail of unlocking one of the keys to prevention or finding a cure.

Thanks to the American Diabetes Association and their research awards, scientists like Dr. Matthew Brady, Dr. Elbert Huang and Dr. Baron Wicksteed, all from the University of Chicago; and Dr. Daniel Batlle, Northwestern University, bring leading edge research and the search for preventing diabetes complications and finding a cure to Chicago.

"There are three main types of research awards focusing on training, career development and general research," says Dr. Brady, former chair of the ADA research grant review committee. "Because funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has tightened in the last five years, ADA grant reviewers have seen an explosion in the number of grant applications and grant awards."

Dr. Bradys observations are on target judging by the 378 ADA grant applications received in 2000 and last years record 970. The NIH, he says, traditionally awards funding to 25-28 percent of their applicants but only 13 percent received the green light this year.

The associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, who received his own ADA career development award in 2001, says that in addition to seeking breakthroughs in preventing and curing diabetes, he hopes the grants stimulate interest and pull additional scientists into diabetes research fields.

Researchers, Dr. Brady reports, are delving into everything from new drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and prevent complications to understanding the autoimmune process behind type 1 diabetes to better predict and prevent diabetes in children.

Examples of current research projects involve:

* preventing childhood obesity

* regenerating islet cells to prevent type 2 diabetes

* discovering the protein related to food intake and weight control

* empowering patients to improve their diabetes care

* replacement of beta cells for the treatment of type 1 diabetes

* slowing the development of diabetic retinopathy

* preventing kidney disease

* uncovering the link between diabetes and cognitive decline

* insulin resistance as it relates to obesity and heart disease

Among those Chicagoans currently receiving research funding is Dr. Batlle, professor of medicine at Northwestern Universitys Feinberg School of Medicine and chief of the division of nephrology and hypertension at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Batlles high profile work takes a close look at type 1 diabetes and preventing kidney disease before it starts.

"Fortunately," he says "Not everyone with type 1 diabetes develops kidney complications or hypertension. That means theres no need to treat everyone in an effort to prevent these complications, but its very important to develop tools to help identify those individuals at greatest risk as well as to gather good clinical evidence to show that treatment will work if started early on.

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