The Center works to increase awareness of diabetes and to facilitate continued growth in diabetes-related research by developing programs that integrate basic and clinical research. Our diabetes research studies cover the spectrum of modern research. They range from laboratory studies investigating basic cellular mechanisms leading to diabetes to participation in major clinical trials of prevention and treatment programs.
The Medical School has special strengths in several areas of diabetes research which includes studies of the genetic contributors to diabetes and its complications, such as cardiovascular disease and nephropathy and genetic research in minority populations is another area of emphasis.
To identify the causes of and to develop new approaches for prevention and treatment of diabetes and diabetes-associated complications, as we continue to expand basic sciences to complement the visible strengths in genetics and epidemiology. This will develop a nationally recognized, balanced, multidisciplinary program for diabetes research.
Published Research HighlightsThe number of our peer-reviewed manuscripts published in top-tier journals illustrates our productivity and the importance of our research. Our ultimate goal is to obtain knowledge that will provide novel insights into understanding the complex mechanisms involved in Type 2 diabetes mellitus susceptibility and complications associated with diabetes. This, in turn, motivates additional research to understand these findings and to identify potential treatment targets.
Central to understanding why people develop diabetes and obesity is the ability to identify the pathways in cells that lead to diabetes or those that change when a person develops diabetes. An essential element in diabetes and obesity research is the ability to change the way specific genes function to understand how such a gene affects diabetes and obesity.
The Center for Diabetes Research houses researchers investigating cellular and physiological pathways that are involved in the functioning of the insulin secreting ß-cell of the pancreas, insulin sensitivity and obesity. In particular, studies are underway investigating links with inflammation and neuroendocrine control of insulin sensitivity. These studies encompass both evaluations of cellular mechanisms at the cellular level and mouse knockout models. An important aspect of this research is using genetic discoveries to target specific genes for detailed mechanistic evaluation.
Multiple investigators in the clinical sciences play active roles in numerous aspects of diabetes research, including participation in clinical trials of new drugs to find more effective ways of treating diabetes and participation in large national trials of diabetes care and treatment. Many of these studies directly target improving health care delivery in diabetes patients, such as using patient databases to follow efforts at achieving treatment goals and evaluating “process of care” measures among our patients to assess the effectiveness of those outcomes.
Other activities include studies testing new treatments for gastrointestinal disorders in people with diabetes and developing new approaches for controlling diabetes and glucose metabolism in patients undergoing cardiothoracic surgery to prevent cerebrovascular complications. Complementary studies assess how and where fat develops as people age and become overweight.
Minority populations in the United States have significantly higher levels of diabetes. Researchers at Wake Forest are active in many research projects that focus on the reasons for this high prevalence. These encompass a wide range of approaches but include studies of the genes that contribute to diabetes and complications of diabetes in African Americans and Hispanic Americans. Diabetes risk cannot, however, be viewed solely through the lens of physiology. Health and disease are the result of a complex interaction of socioeconomic factors, culture, genetics, and access to care. These factors may have an amplified affect in minority populations.
Risk for developing diabetes is powerfully linked to our genes. For almost 30 years, Wake Forest researchers have played an active and prominent role in research targeted at identifying genes that contribute to diabetes and complications of diabetes.
The search for genes that contribute to diabetes has taken many paths, with studies focused on large groups of patients with diabetes or diabetic complications such as kidney disease or heart disease. These studies are complemented by studies of metabolic measures related to diabetes such as insulin sensitivity, insulin secretion and obesity.
Multiple NIH-funded studies support an active program of genetic studies that use genome-wide association approaches to carry out detailed fingerprinting of the genome to identify genes that affect diabetes risk, insulin sensitivity, ß-cell function and measures of obesity. Among these studies, members of the Center for Diabetes Research play a leading role in the Meta-analysis of Type 2 Diabetes in African Americans Consortium, or the MEDIA Consortium, which includes the study of more than 29,000 African Americans from 19 separate studies to better understand the genetic contributions to diabetes susceptibility in this population.