O'Dell, Laura , PhD
Diabetes Enhances Susceptibility to the Rewarding Effects of Nicotine
General Research Subject: Both Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Clinical Therapeutics/New Technology, Clinical Therapeutics/New Technology\Pharmacologic Treatment of Diabetes or its Complications, Complications, Insulin Action, Insulin Action\Insulin Resistance, Obesity, Obesity\Animal Models
Type of Grant: Minority Undergraduate Internship
Project Start Date: January 1, 2013
Project End Date: December 31, 2013
The undergraduate student, Jesus Jurado is a Mexican-American undergraduate student who is in his 4th year of the Biological Sciences program. He will be able to dedicate approximately 20 hours a week to the proposed project during the Fall and Spring semesters, and 40 hours a week during the summer months. Jesus has worked in my laboratory for a year as part of the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement program. Jesus has completed all of the training courses to conduct animal research. He has also been trained in behavioral and surgical procedures that will be needed in the proposed project. Over the past year, Jesus has worked on a line of studies showing that diabetic rats display an increase in nicotine self-administration and higher preference for a compartment that was paired with nicotine as compared to controls.
The proposed studies will first characterize nicotineself-administration in diabetic and control rats across a range of nicotinedoses. Subsequent studies will examine whether normalization of glucose levels via insulin replacement returns nicotine intake back to control levels. During the course of the internship year, Jesus will present this work at 2 scientific meetings. As a female Mexican-American Neuroscientist, I am deeply committed to supporting minorities in science. Jesus and I have established a strong working relationship, and I am committed to helping him achieve his goals. Funding through this program will allow Jesus to focus on research and invest in GRE prep courses and conferences where he can meet potential graduate school mentors.
Mentor: Laura E O'Dell
Undergraduate: Jesus Jurado
What area of diabetes research does your project cover? What role will this particular project play in preventing, treating, and curing diabetes?
I will participate in the research activities described in our parent grant entitled, "Diabetes Enhanced Susceptibility to the Rewarding Effects of Nicotine." This work is lead by Dr. O'Dell who serves as my research mentor. The area of diabetes research that this project relates to is whether patients with diabetes have enhanced vulnerability to tobacco abuse. Patients with diabetes have heath complications that are magnified by tobacco use. Despite this, diabetic subjects appear to be more vulnerable to tobacco abuse than the general population. An unanswered question is whether diabetic patients are more susceptible to tobacco abuse due to greater pleasurable effects of nicotine versus controls. There is a fundamental gap in our understanding of how the brain of diabetic patients is more sensitive to the pleasurable effects of nicotine.
I will participate in studies examining whether the rewarding effects of nicotine are enhanced in diabetic rats versus healthy controls. Preliminary data demonstrate that diabetic rats find nicotine more rewarding as compared to healthy controls. Furthermore, we observed that the biological mechanisms of this effect are related to suppressed dopamine systems in a brain region that mediates the pleasurable effects of nicotine. Thus, we hypothesize that enhanced susceptibility to tobacco abuse in diabetic persons is due to overcompensation for suppressed dopamine systems.
Our proposal will examine this hypothesis using two models of diabetes involving insulin suppression or chronic high-fat feeding. Subsequent studies will examine whether the effects of diabetes on nicotine intake and brain changes return to control levels following insulin replacement. This research is important because it will provide important information towards understanding the role of dopamine systems in mediating enhanced vulnerability to tobacco abuse in diabetic patients. At the completion of the proposed studies, in which I will participate in the data collection, the findings will speak to the potential clinical efficacy of pharmacotherapy's that target dopamine systems.
Our findings will help guide the development of specialized treatments for diabetic patients that suffer from health complications exacerbated by tobacco abuse. Thus, this project will play an important role in advancing the mission of the ADA to improve the lives of diabetic persons, particularly those that are more inflicted by the health consequences of tobacco abuse.
If a person with diabetes were to ask you how your project will help them in the future, how would you respond?
If a person with diabetes asked me how my project will help them, I would try to explain how diabetes and tobacco addiction are related. A person with diabetes has to endure many obligations and hardships in their life, such as financial and heath burdens. This additional stress may lead to smoking and I believe that a person with diabetes would understand the need for research aimed at reducing smoking, as this would improve their health. Our findings with enhanced nicotine use in diabetic subjects might explain intense cravings that diabetic persons can relate to, such as increased appetite and thirst. My project is focused on understanding whether similar mechanisms for tobacco use and over-eating may be related in the brain reward pathway.
Current research does not fully understand how problematic tobacco use (and nicotine exposure) can be on individual suffering from diabetes. However, we do know that excessive smoking can lead to increase chances of hypertension and cancer. Thus, it is important to reduce smoking in diabetic persons. My hope is that I could explain the project well so that someone with diabetes can understand why their addiction to nicotine is so much harder to quit than healthy individuals. If we learn that tobacco use in diabetics is different than in the general populations, then this work could lead to specialized treatments for diabetic patients that smoke.
Our work might also be helpful towards preventing tobacco use altogether via educational strategies that increase awareness about the addictive nature of tobacco for diabetic persons that are more vulnerable to tobacco use. This project will help to understand some of the unanswered questions in our understanding of nicotine addiction and diabetes.
Why is it important for you, personally, to become involved in diabetes research? What role will this award play in your efforts?
Diabetes is an epidemic in our country, particularly for Mexican-American families in El Paso. Nicotine may be a detrimental chemical that can cause diabetes to take full effect or make the symptoms of diabetes worse. There is new evidence to also suggest that nicotine may be toxic to the pancreatic beta islet cells. Our area of research will try to understand why diabetes causes dopamine to be suppressed in the rewarding pathways of the brain.
Our previous research has shown that diabetic versus healthy rats display a greater intake of nicotine. Therefore, it is imperative to understand that why diabetes suppresses the rewarding pathway, which can in turn be toxic to individuals with diabetes. Personally, this research is important to me being born and raised in El Paso. I have seen diabetes as rampant among Mexican-American families, including my own. In fact, there are very few in my family that do not have diabetes. Luckily, I was not burdened with this disease and I take pride in using my health to focus on research efforts aimed at curing this disease.
This award will give me a better understanding of diabetes and the relationship between nicotine abuse and diabetes. This award will benefit me with the burden of financial obligations, as it will allow me to focus on school and completing my project. This award will also help ne travel to present my research this year at the American Association Diabetes meeting in Chicago. This will be important for me because I can meet prospective mentors for graduate school. The award will allow me to focus on activities related to applying for graduate school, such as GRE preparation courses and writing my applications.
In what direction do you see the future of diabetes research going?
Diabetes is becoming one of the most prevalent health issues of our time. Given the vast number of persons afflicted with diabetes, a better understanding of co-morbid conditions is of critical importance. Although the focus of this proposal is on tobacco addiction, there are other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety that patients with diabetes may also be more vulnerable to. A better understanding of how patients with diabetes are susceptible to these issues may lead to preventative and/or treatment strategies that improve the lives of persons living with diabetes.
I believe that the future of medicine is towards treatments that are specialized on an individual basis. It is important to study how to prevent diabetes and reduce things such as smoking that make diabetes worse. It is also important to study other factors that may make diabetes worse, such as certain foods and low levels of activity. All of these issues can be tested empirically. So this study can lead to a better understanding of why such a problematic habit of smoking is much more likely to occur in a diabetic individual. I am glad to participate in this line of important work and I hope to help mold future studies that examine the mechanisms that mediate these effects.
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