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Seed Grants Will Support Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Research

Four University of Utah Health projects have received grants designed to activate novel research in the areas of diabetes, obesity, and metabolism. The grants—awarded by Driving Out Diabetes, a Larry H. Miller Family Wellness Initiative, and the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center—will support investigators in various colleges and departments across U of U Health, including internal medicine, psychology, pathology, and nutrition and integrative physiology.

"We have remarkable scientists at U of U Health who are tackling important issues in diabetes and metabolism," says Scott Summers, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology and co-director for the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center. "The 2021 funded projects demonstrate exceptional research rigor while addressing important clinical needs."

More than 34 million Americans have diabetes—and 1 in 5 of them don't know they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, they are at high risk for a number of health conditions, including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and limb amputations. In all, these disorders account for $327 billion in annual medical costs and lost work and wages in the United States. 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 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 how to prevent type 2 Diabetes in Latinx Americans to understanding what drives type 2 diabetes risk after cancer diagnosis.

Seed grant projects will receive up to $40,000 for one year. These grants were made possible in part by generous donations from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation, the Of Love Tennis Tournament, the England Family, and the Watkins Family.

Project Titles & Awardees

Katie Baucom (psychology):­ "Understanding Implementation of the CDC NDPP Delivered to Hispanic/Latinx Americans."

  • A study, based on interviews of lifestyle coaches for the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP), to understand how to successfully implement and adapt the NDPP for Latinx Americans.

Keke Fairfax (pathology): "Identifying Helminth antigens that modulate metabolism."

  • An investigation of the modulation of bone marrow-derived hepatic macrophage metabolism to discover novel antigens with therapeutic potential in a mouse model of metabolic disease.

Mary Playdon (nutrition and integrative physiology): "Treatment and lifestyle determinants of type 2 diabetes risk and consequences among cancer survivors."

  • A project to measure the association between cancer and diabetes (and related factors) in several large data cohorts.

Candace Reno (internal medicine): "The Role of Parasympathetic Dysfunction in type 1 Diabetes in Mediating Hypoglycemia-Induced Fatal Cardiac Arrhythmias."

  • An investigation into how parasympathetic nervous system sends signals from the brain to the heart during hypoglycemia that lead to cardiac arrhythmias.