Callaghan, Brian Christopher
The Impact of the Metabolic Syndrome on the Incidence of Neuropathy in Obese Subjects
General Research Subject: Obesity
Focus: Complications\Neuropathy, Epidemiology
Type of Grant: Junior Faculty
Project Start Date: July 1, 2011
Project End Date: June 30, 2014
Currently there is little knowledge about the cause of neuropathy for many patients. In fact, the only treatment for patients with neuropathy is control of high sugar levels if they have diabetes. Interestingly, there is evolving evidence that the metabolic syndrome may increase the chance a patient has of developing neuropathy. The metabolic syndrome is a combination of health problems that many patients with diabetes possess. We plan to investigate which of these health problems contributes to patients developing neuropathy. If we can determine which of these factors contributes to this common condition, then hopefully we can start to target these areas with specific medications.
Significance to diabetes: Many patients with diabetes have the metabolic syndrome. Since the metabolic syndrome is made up of multiple health problems that all have the potential of being treated, knowledge of which of these factors drives the development of neuropathy has profound implications for the prevention and treatment of neuropathy in these patients. The hope is to be able to tailor therapies to each of the health problems that are related to neuropathy. This knowledge will hopefully lead to making neuropathy, an extremely common medical problem, a far more treatable entity.
What area of diabetes research does your project cover? What role will this particular project play in preventing, treating and/or curing diabetes?
My project focuses on how the metabolic syndrome affects nerves. The metabolic syndrome consists of multiple risk factors that tend to cluster together including diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, and triglycerides. A large percentage of patients with the metabolic syndrome have diabetes as it is one of the main components. As a result, if we are able to identify which components of the metabolic syndrome are driving the development of neuropathy, these results will affect many patients with diabetes. Currently, a significant number of patients with diabetes develop neuropathy despite adequate sugar control. Clearly, there is a need to identify which other factors are involved in the development of this disabling and painful condition. We are hopeful that this research will lead to future clinical trials to determine if treatment of factors other than sugar levels can prevent and/or improve neuropathy.
If a person with diabetes were to ask you how your project will help them in the future, how would you respond?
We hope to identify which components of the metabolic syndrome injure nerves. If we are able to accomplish this, then we plan to conduct trials to determine if treatment of these factors can prevent and/or improve neuropathy. The goal is to develop treatments for neuropathy. Currently, the only available treatment is sugar control, and this is not sufficient to prevent many patients from experiencing the problems associated with neuropathy.
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 a neuromuscular physician that sees patients with diabetes and
neuropathy on a frequent basis. I see first hand the effects of this
common and painful condition. At this time, I have little to offer
these patients to improve their symptoms, which is frustrating to all of
us in this field. The relationships with the many patients with
diabetes and neuropathy make this important to me on a personal level.
This award will provide me with the opportunity to not only complete this project but also progress as a clinical researcher. As a career development award, I hope this award is just the beginning of a long research career within this field. I have seen the impact that my mentor has had on this field, and I hope to follow in her footsteps.
In what direction do you see the future of diabetes research going?
I envision more treatments to prevent and/or improve neuropathy in
patients with diabetes. These same treatments may also have beneficial
effects on the eye and kidney. Sugar control is not the sole answer to
the treatment of patients with diabetes. We need to have a better
understanding of the other factors that lead to many of the
complications associated with this condition. Determining that intense
sugar control improved the lives of patients with diabetes was the focus
of the past 20-30 years. Now is the time to take the next step in
determining how to prevent the disabling complications that are common
in these patients.
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