|May 22, 2008||Media contact: Kara Gavin
UMHS awarded $8.9M for Michigan Diabetes Research & Training Center
Nearly 150 U-M diabetes researchers receive support from the center, one of only seven in the U.S. supported by the National Institutes of Health
People with diabetes must check their blood sugar (glucose) levels regularly and use diet, exercise, and often medications to keep it in check.
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Diabetes researchers at the University of Michigan Health System have won a five-year, $8.9 million federal grant that will accelerate a broad range of studies aimed at understanding diabetes and its complications, and addressing the epidemic of type 2 diabetes that threatens to wreak havoc on the American public’s health for decades to come.
The funding, from the National Institutes of Health, continues U-M’s unbroken 30-year streak of winning such major diabetes grants, and cements the university’s position as one of only seven NIH-designated diabetes centers in the country.
The grant renews the core funding for the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center, which counts nearly 150 U-M diabetes researchers among its members. The U-M Medical School and its Department of Internal Medicine will each contribute another $500,000 to the diabetes center over five years, for a total of $9.9 million.
The funding will allow the MDRTC to provide “seed money” for early-stage research projects in U-M laboratories and clinics, and to operate “core” scientific facilities that can be shared by researchers involved in studies of diabetes and related disorders.
From sophisticated analysis of scientific samples, to studies of how diabetes affects high-risk populations such as African Americans and Arab Americans, the MDRTC supports research on both diabetes and its complications — the long-term problems that arise as the disease harms hearts, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys.
Researchers from nearly every department of the U-M Medical School are members of the MDRTC. But the center also includes researchers from the U-M Schools of Public Health, Nursing, and Social Work, and from the Dental School, Life Sciences Institute, and colleges of Engineering and Pharmacy.
“At a time when competition for federal research dollars is fierce, and the need for progress in diabetes is urgent, we’re extremely pleased to be awarded this funding as a recognition of our past performance and our potential to make even greater progress in understanding, preventing, diagnosing and treating diabetes and its complications,” says William Herman, M.D., MPH, the center’s director.
He notes that the grant is especially crucial to the state of Michigan, which has an above-average diabetes rate – a rate that has risen 52 percent in the last eight years. Michigan also has a high rate of obesity, which raises type 2 diabetes risk.
Herman is the Stefan S. Fajans/GlaxoSmithKline Professor of Diabetes in the Department of Internal Medicine at the U-M Medical School, as well as a professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health. His professorship is named for U-M diabetes expert Stefan Fajans, M.D., who in 1977 established the MDRTC and was its director until 1986.
Now an emeritus professor at the Medical School, Fajans was the first to identify a rare form of diabetes called maturity-onset diabetes of the young, or MODY, and to find links between this disease and genes involved in insulin secretion. Today, Herman notes, those same genetic regions and problems with insulin secretion are being seen as important to the much more common type 2 diabetes – showing the importance of Fajans’ earlier work, and of basic research at the MDRTC.
Over time, the number of researchers involved in the MDRTC has grown from a few dozen to nearly 150. In just the past five years, they’ve published more than 1,500 research papers.
“The center’s facilities and research-support functions act as shared resources that these researchers can use in their work,” Herman explains. “In fact, the availability of the MDRTC resources often helps researchers win their own individual funding from federal and private resources. Right now, our members hold grant funding for diabetes-related research that totals nearly $31 million.”
The center has three main components:
- Biomedical Research, which includes a number of the shared “core” scientific facilities for laboratory researchers and is headed by MDRTC associate director Christin Carter-Su, Ph.D., a professor of molecular & integrative physiology at the Medical School. Among the shared resources are facilities for state-of-the-art metabolic analysis and cell and molecular biology; facilities for work on proteins and proteomics; image analysis tools; and testing labs to measure levels of key molecules in biological samples.
- Prevention and Control, which assists with researchers’ efforts totranslate new knowledge into improved health care and health for people with diabetes. Headed by John D. Piette, Ph.D., a professor of internal medicine at the Medical School, this area include core resources for biostatistics, economic analysis, measurement of different physical and psychosocial factors within large groups, and clinical trial design and analysis. The MDRTC has led the development of standardized research tools now used worldwide to assess the health and knowledge of people with diabetes who are participating in large studies.
- The Grants Program, which runs an annual competition that provides research funding to help early-stage and interdisciplinary research get off the ground. This allows researchers to produce results that can lead to innovative approaches to diabetes prevention and control, and that can help them win further funding from outside U-M. Each year, the program awards $200,000 for four pilot and feasibility studies and, together with the Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center, another $100,000 for studies being conducted by teams of researchers from more than one area of U-M. The program is headed by Martin G. Myers, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of internal medicine and of molecular and integrative physiology.
Over its 30-year history, the MDRTC has made many contributions to the study of diabetes, and supported research that has led to the development of new products and strategies that can be used by clinicians, companies, government health agencies and more. It has also helped educate scores of young researchers, through seminars and training on research tools and techniques.
In 2005, the MDRTC became a key part of the new Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center, which unites most of U-M’s clinical care, research and education in diabetes. It also has links to many other centers and programs at U-M and beyond, including the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research, the VA Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence, the Michigan Proteome Consortium and the Michigan Biomedical Research Core Facilities.
For more information, see fact sheet.
Written by: Kara Gavin