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Seed Grants Awarded To Accelerate Novel Research in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism

Diabetes lab

Driving Out Diabetes, a Larry H. Miller Family Wellness Initiative, and the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center (DMRC) has awarded grants to six projects designed to activate novel research projects in the areas of diabetes, obesity and metabolism. This year’s six recipients represent various colleges and departments across University of Utah Health, from Cardiology and Psychology, to Nursing.

“The work being supported through these seed grants pushes the frontiers of innovative research. Though all of these projects are at very early stages, they could one day lead to new clinical approaches that may greatly reduce the burden of diabetes in our states,” says Scott Summers, PhD, department chair of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology. 

It’s estimated that more than 30 million Americans have diabetes, putting them at risk for a number of health conditions, including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and limb amputations. These related disorders contribute to the $245 billion strain on the U.S. medical system. And these problems are only being compounded by growth in the rates of Americans who are obese, a leading cause of diabetes.

The Driving Out Diabetes Initiative is a three-year partnership between U of U Health and the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation that focuses on prevention, outreach and clinical care. By investing in innovative research, the Initiative aims to discover scientific breakthroughs that will lead to improved treatments and potentially future cures for diabetes.

The Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center focuses on research related to diabetes, metabolism and overall metabolic health. The center was established to create a platform for innovative basic, translational, clinical, and population health research that will yield new prevention methods and treatments that ultimately improve metabolic health and quality of life.

Grant recipients will carry out a variety of projects ranging from social support for diabetes management to a chemically-modified insulin that would last longer.

Seed grant projects and post-doctoral fellows will both receive up to $50,000 for one year.  These grants were made possible in part by generous donations from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation.

 Project Titles & Awardees

Cynthia Berg, PhD (Psychology), Michelle Litchman, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP (College of Nursing) :- “Family involvement & sharing information among families with multiple members with type 1 diabetes.”

  • An investigation to understand how to communicate information among families to earlier identify type 1 diabetes in the diagnosis process.

Dipayan Chaudhuri, MD, PhD (Cardiology) :- “Inhibiting EFHD1 to prevent mitochondrial calcium overload in diabetic cardiomyopathy.”

  • A study to test if mice without the mitochondrial protein EFDH1 are slower to develop diabetes and cardiovascular complications.

Raphael Franzini, PhD (Oncology) :- “Approaches to activate shelf-stable insulin for diabetes management.”

  • A project to develop a chemically modified insulin that has a longer shelf life and that will spontaneously activate in vivo upon contact with a chemical reagent.

Sheetal Hardikar, PhD, MBBS (Population Health Sciences) :- “Incidence and persistence of cancer-therapy induced hyperglycemia among cancer patients in the first year after diagnosis.” (postdoctoral fellowship for Richard Viskochil, PhD)

  • A postdoctoral fellowship to determine the effect of different cancer treatments and patient characteristics on developing hyperglycemia in cancer patients within the first year following diagnosis, and the underlying pathophysiological changes of hyperglycemia over time.

William Holland, PhD (Biochemistry) :- “A dominant-negative mutation in human adiponectin.”

  • This study seeks to understand how a rare human mutation that leads to loss of an adipocyte-secreted molecule, adiponectin, may led to end-stage renal failure in some patients with diabetes. 

Eun-Kee Jeong, PhD (Radiology) :- “Simultaneous assessment of tissue oxygenation and muscle metabolism using dMb-1H and 31P MR Spectroscopy for diabetic foot ulcer.”

  • This project seeks to develop an innovative technology that can simultaneously estimate tissue oxygenation and metabolism in calf muscle in patients with foot ulcers through nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.