UIC joins Chicago Diabetes Research and Training Center

The University of Illinois at Chicago is a new member of the Chicago Diabetes Training and Research Center.

The membership comes with a five-year, $600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, which will support researchers at UIC investigating diabetes and other endocrine-related diseases and help purchase specialized research equipment and materials. The UIC researchers will work collaboratively and share resources with scientists at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University who are also members of the Chicago Diabetes Training and Research Center.

“This designation will help support innovative, collaborative research and expand our efforts to uncover the underlying factors that contribute to diabetes and to identify new treatments and cures,” said Dr. Brian Layden, associate professor and chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism in the UIC College of Medicine.

Brian Layden

Dr. Brian Layden. (Photo: Jenny Fontaine)

“It will also help enhance education and training opportunities for patients, students, new investigators and clinicians,” continued Layden, who is a UIC-site co-principal investigator on the grant. He estimates that about half of the patients seen at the University of Illinois Hospital have diabetes.

“The burden of diabetes in the community we serve is rapidly growing,” said Dr. Terry Unterman, professor of medicine in the UIC College of Medicine and a co-principal investigator on the grant. “This award will help to position UIC at the cutting edge of research in metabolism and cell biology that is essential for understanding diabetes and developing even more effective therapies.”

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when blood glucose levels become too high. This can happen if not enough insulin — the hormone that helps the body use glucose for fuel  — is produced or if the body becomes resistant to glucose. Several risk factors contribute to diabetes, including obesity, diet and low socioeconomic status. African Americans are also more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared with their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Complications that can arise from diabetes include heart disease, eye disease, kidney and nerve damage.

The equipment purchased by UIC with the grant will be used to isolate islets, which produce insulin, and also liver and fat cells, which are major targets of insulin action. The specialized tools will allow researchers through the city to investigate mechanisms related to fat metabolism, which when dysregulated, is believed to contribute to increased production of glucose by the liver and the development of diabetes.

Diabetes treatment and research has been a major focus at UIC for decades. The University of Illinois Hospital provides pancreas transplantation, insulin pump therapy, medical treatments for obesity and other treatments for its patients with diabetes. Research at UIC has led to numerous discoveries, including the description, for the first time, of key proteins involved in glucose metabolism; the identification of genes involved in the development of Type 2 diabetes, and advances in the development of encapsulated islet cells to cure diabetes.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, designates and supports Diabetes Research and Training Centers throughout the United States at research institutions that have established an existing base of high quality diabetes-related research. It does not directly fund major research projects; rather, it provides core resources to enhance the efficiency, productivity and interdisciplinary cooperation of Center investigators conducting research in diabetes and related areas of endocrinology and metabolism.

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