Goran, Michael , PhD
Mentor-Based Postdoctoral Training in Pediatric Obesity and Insulin Resistance
General Research Subject: Obesity
Focus: Adipocytes, Integrated Physiology\Insulin Resistance, Pediatrics\Obesity
Type of Grant: Mentor Based Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship
Project Start Date: July 1, 2010
Project End Date: June 30, 2013
Diabetes Type: Type 2 diabetes
Pediatric obesity significantly increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and in the longer term, some forms of cancer. The prevalence of obesity in children has nearly tripled in recent decades with ethnic minorities fairing even worse. Over 60% of African American and Hispanic adolescents are overweight or obese and diabetes risk is nearly double that of non-Hispanic white adolescents. In addition, the pubertal transition is a time during which rapid and dynamic changes occur in body fat and fat distribution, as well as increased insulin resistance and risk for type 2 diabetes. Detailed studies are needed to better understand why certain sub-groups of the population are at increased risk for obesity-related diseases at this critical period of adolescent growth and to identify optimal intervention strategies.
Hence, the objectives of the current projects are: 1) examining ethnic differences in body composition, fat distribution and fat cell size; 2) determining the risk factors that contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes during puberty; and 3) assessing the effects of sugar restriction (e.g., fructose vs. glucose) on metabolic health and reducing diabetes risk. These results may provide important new information regarding differing pathways to obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes in African American and Latino adolescents and young adults. These results can later be used to develop more effective treatments to combat the growing prevalence of obesity and diabetes risk in 'high-risk' ethnic minority adolescents.
Mentor: Michal Goran Postdoctoral Fellow: Claudia Toledo-Corral
What area of diabetes research does your project cover? What role will this particular project play in preventing, treating and/or curing diabetes?
Our projects are in the field of obesity and diabetes prevention in minority youth. We are interested in identifying and studying children who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Our goal is to learn which factors trigger the onset of diabetes during certain years of growth. This project will help identify early markers of type 2 diabetes risk and will contribute to early onset type 2 diabetes in high-risk populations.
If a person with diabetes were to ask you how your project will help them in the future, how would you respond?
Type 2 diabetes is influenced by a variety of factors that include behavior, the environment and heredity. I would tell the diabetic individual that our research could help discover early warning signs of the disease in their children or grandchildren. Once these factors are identified, our research can then be applied to highly tailored interventions program for children at risk for type 2 diabetes. This will decrease early mortality in their family and increase their chance at a happy, healthy life.
Why is it important for you, personally, to become involved in diabetes research? What role will this award play in your research efforts?
I am very interested in the long-term health of young children and addressing early in life the potentially devastating health consequences of obesity, especially with regards to long-term reduction of diabetes risk.
Considering the nature of our research in minority groups, maintaining good rapport is vital. We have found that a culturally sensitive staff that can directly relate to the Hispanic and African-American communities has added to the success of our research. In recent years, we have a strong presence of minority staff in the administration and research collection but not in academics. This award will allow for at least one minority fellow to contribute their knowledge to our current projects and in turn, we can train a young minority researcher in the field of type 2 diabetes.
In what direction do you see the future of diabetes research going?
With emerging data on gene-environment interactions, the future of diabetes research includes highly tailored interventions or health programs for high-risk groups based on genetics. For example, an individual with a family history of type 2 diabetes could go to their family physician and get screened for certain gene types. Then, based on the result of their 'genetic maps' an individual diet regimen and physical activity routine would be prescribed. This diet and exercise prescription would be the most optimal for that individual to decrease their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
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