Local Research

Top 5 things to know about the Association's Research:

  1. We have the most comprehensive diabetes research grants program in the country.
  2. Over the years, the Association has invested more than $550 million in diabetes research and provided funding for more than 4,000 research projects.
  3. 100 percent of all allocated gifts to support diabetes research are used only to support research.
  4. For all donations $50,000 or above, donors can select the specific research project that they would like to fund.
  5. According to the 2002-2007 Research Program Assessment, 97 percent of researchers supported by the Association continued their careers in diabetes research.

To learn about the Association's nationally funded research, visit www.diabetes.org/research-and-practice/.

Meet our 2017 Locally Funded Researchers

Kirstie Danielson, PhD (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Islets, bone & sex hormones: advancing human islet transplant for type 1 diabetes
General Research Subject: Type 1 Diabetes
Focus: Transplantation, Epidemiology

Transplanting insulin-producing islet cells can potentially cure type 1 diabetes (T1D). However, human islet donors are limited, and islets that are transplanted often lose their function so recipients again require insulin. Characteristics of islet donors and recipients (i.e., the islets' original and new environments) associated with transplant success are poorly understood. Identifying those characteristics could greatly advance strategies for islet transplant to effectively treat more patients. This study will determine whether islets' hormonal environments, both in the donor and recipient, are associated with transplant success.

Jongsook Kemper, PhD (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Gene-specific control of energy metabolism by jmjd3 histone demethylase
General Research Subject: Obesity
Focus: Transplantation, Islet Biology, Islet Biology\Apoptosis, Islet Biology, Islet Biology\Beta Cell Growth and Differentiation

Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes and has become a global epidemic. In obesity, the regulation of energy metabolism is abnormal, which results in metabolic dysfunction. It is important to understand how metabolism is regulated normally and how it is altered in obesity. This study focuses on jmjd3 and its role in regulating activity of Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1). SIRT1 has beneficial effects on energy metabolism and counteracts obesity, but SIRT1 function is greatly diminished in obesity. SIRT1 normally inhibits the expression of genes, but activates some genes, including fat oxidation and glucose production genes, upon fasting. It is unknown how SIRT1 selectively activates or inhibits gene expression

Joanne Kramer Tobacman, MD (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Impact of no-carrageenan diet on glucose tolerance in prediabetes
General Research Subject: Insulin Resistance/Prediabetes
Focus: Nutrition-Clinical, Integrated Physiology, Integrated Physiology\Insulin Resistance, Insulin Action, Insulin Action\Signal Transduction

The purpose of this project is to determine the impact of withdrawal from the diet of the commonly used food additive carrageenan on glucose tolerance in individuals with prediabetes. This randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding trial is anticipated to demonstrate whether or not withdrawal of dietary carrageenan can improve glucose tolerance and can help to prevent the development of diabetes. Removal of carrageenan from the diet may be a useful strategy in the prevention of diabetes

Solomon Afelik, PhD (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Wnt Signaling in Pancreatic Progenitor Growth
General Research Subject: Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Gene Regulation, Islet Replacement, Signal Transduction (Non-Insulin Action), Signal Transduction (Non-Insulin Action)\Transgenic Models

For most cases of diabetes, a readily available source of glucose responsive insulin producing cells will provide a lasting cure. For this reason, efforts to generate insulin producing cells through directed differentiation of embryonic stem cells or other progenitor cell types have intensified in recent years. Success at attaining this goal however relies on a thorough understanding of how insulin producing cells normally form during embryonic development.  This proposal is aimed defining culture conditions with defining signaling factors to achieve maximal induction of growth of pancreatic progenitor cells of both embryonic and adult pancreatic origin.

Marilyn Cornelis, PhD (Northwestern University Medical School)
Metabolite Markers of Coffee Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
General Research Subject: Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Epidemiology, Genetics, Genetics/Type 2 Diabetes, Nutrition-Clinical

The research applies a novel way to study the most widely consumed beverage in the world and has potential for offering new insight to how coffee protects against diabetes and novel, more personalized, strategies for its prevention.

Grant Barish, MD (Northwestern University)
Regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism by the transcriptional repressor BCL6 in liver
General Research Subject: Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Integrated Physiology, Integrated Physiology\Liver, Gene Chips and Microarrays, Insulin Action, Insulin Action\Metabolism

The proposed research will reveal a new role for a gene, known as BCL6, to control glucose and lipid metabolism through its functions in the liver. Importantly, the BCL6 gene encodes a druggable protein that impacts the levels of many important glucose and lipid metabolic genes. Thus, insights from this study may identify a new therapeutic strategy to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Siri Atma Greeley, MD, PhD (University of Chicago)
The Impact of Diabetes in Infancy: Clinical, Qualitative, and Neurodevelopmental Outcome
General Research Subject: Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Genetics, Pediatrics, Psychosocial Behavioral Medicine

We will utilize standardized measures of neurodevelopment, quality of life, beta cell function and glycemic control, with the specific aims being 1) to determine the neurodevelopmental consequences of glycemic dysregulation that occurred before brain development was complete and 2) to assess measures of clinical diabetes control and quality of life and determine their relationship to genetic diagnosis and treatment history.

Robert Sargis, MD, PhD (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Mechanisms and potentiators of arsenic-induced metabolic dysfunction
General Research Subject: Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Integrated Physiology, Integrated Physiology, Integrated Physiology\Insulin Secretion and Islet Hormones, Islet Biology

Using experimental animals and cells from those animals, this proposal will attempt to fill this data gap by determining how arsenic hinders the body's ability to produce insulin, the key hormone essential for lowering blood sugar and preventing the onset of diabetes. In addition, this work will explore the fascinating connection between selenium and arsenic as it pertains to the risk of developing diabetes. Collectively, these studies will advance understanding of arsenic's role in the diabetes epidemic while offering insights that may be used to prevent its impact on individuals in the United States and across the globe.

Tracy Baynard, PhD (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Heart rate variability-guided exercise training in type 2 diabetes
General Research Subject: Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Exercise, Exercise\Human, Complications, Complications\Macrovascular/Cardiovascular

We propose a randomized clinical trial using a novel personalized approach for improving fitness above what traditional training programs currently accomplish. Our approach entails using a non-invasive measure of autonomic function, called heart rate variability, to guide and optimize a 16-wk exercise prescription for individuals with T2D, which offers an individualized balance between exercise and recovery that is lacking in traditional exercise prescriptions. Further, we aim to determine if this novel training paradigm yields greater improvements in autonomic function, glucose control and psychosocial factors versus a traditional exercise prescription. Our long-term goal is to develop strategies for optimizing fitness, so that targeted therapies can be effectively delivered that result in lower disease risk profiles, morbidity and mortality rates.

Kirstie Danielson, PhD (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Investigating the impact of the bone-derived hormone osteocalcin on human islet cell integrity and survival
General Research Subject: Type 1 Diabetes
Focus: Exercise, Exercise\Human, Complications, Complications\Macrovascular/Cardiovascular

The Intern's research will evaluate whether human islets cultured with unOC have more cell growth and structural integrity, as well as decreased cell death. After culture with unOC at varying concentrations and durations, the islets will be immunohistochemically stained, then studied under the microscope for signs of growth, injury or death. If we can prevent the progressive loss of islet function and number after transplant by pre-treatment with unOC, we may increase the number of T1D patients who remain insulin independent following islet transplantation.

Solomoon Afelik, PhD (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Induction of beta-cell proliferation
General Research Subject: Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Islet Biology, Islet Biology\Beta Cell Growth and Differentiation, Islet Biology, Islet Biology\Signal Transduction, Islet Biology, Islet Biology\Beta Cell Transcription Regulation

In this study we seek to develop a clinically applicable means of activating the proliferation of human insulin producing cells in culture.  We therefore aim to test different concentrations as well as different durations of CHIR99021 treatment of human islets cells in culture. For this Kenneth Booker will be actively involved in determining the most optimal conditions for achieving maximal beta cell proliferation with CHIR99021 mediated Wnt activation.