NIDDK Director's Update Summer 2017

Research Updates

Diabetes and youth

Rates of new diagnosed cases of diabetes on the rise among youth: Rates of new diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are increasing among youth in the United States, according to the latest results of the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, funded by NIH/NIDDK and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study is the first ever to estimate trends in new diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in youth (those under the age of 20), from the five major racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. The research published April 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Biomarkers for early organ transplant rejection: To investigate whether tiny, fluid-filled sacs called exosomes can be used as biomarkers to predict earlier stages of organ and tissue transplant rejection, a research team at the University of Pennsylvania transplanted human islet cells into mice. The scientists next analyzed blood samples from five people with type 1 diabetes who were enrolled in an NIH-funded islet transplantation clinical trial. The team showed that donor islet cell-released exosomes could be reliably characterized throughout a 5-year follow-up period. These findings suggest that exosomes might one day be used to detect transplant injury earlier than current techniques. Findings published March 20 in the The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Study identifies African-specific genomic variant associated with obesity: An international team including NIH researchers conducted the first study of its kind to look at the genomic underpinnings of obesity in continental Africans and African-Americans. The researchers discovered that approximately 1 percent of West Africans, African-Americans and others of African ancestry carry a genomic variant that increases their risk of obesity, a finding that provides insight into why obesity clusters in families. The findings published March 13 in the journal Obesity.

Type 1 diabetes study finds lower costs, better outcomes with tailored eye exam schedule: Adjusting the frequency of eye screenings for people with type 1 diabetes based on their risk of severe eye problems would result in fewer eye exams at lower cost and quicker diagnosis and treatment of advanced retinopathy, which can otherwise lead to vision loss. The findings, published April 19 in the New England Journal of Medicine, are the latest from an ongoing study funded for more than 30 years by NIDDK.

No benefit in treating mildly low thyroid function in pregnancy, NIH network study finds: There appears to be no benefit to treating mildly low thyroid function during pregnancy, according to a study by an NIH research network. The large, long-term study found no differences in cognitive functioning among children born to mothers with subclinical hypothyroidism who were treated with medication during pregnancy and children whose mothers were not treated for the condition. The study also found no differences between the groups in rates of preterm birth, stillbirth, miscarriage, and gestational diabetes. The study published March 2 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

How the body regulates salt levels: A Vanderbilt University research team studying the long-term control of sodium and water balance in a group of men found that changing salt intake affected both aldosterone and cortisone, the hormones that rhythmically control the body’s salt and water balance. The team, which also performed experiments in mice, determined that upping salt intake increased sodium excretion, but also unexpectedly reduced the amount of water in urine. Excess sodium was thus released in concentrated urine. These findings show that the body regulates its salt and water balance not only by releasing excess sodium in urine, but by actively retaining or releasing water in urine. Two papers were published on this topic April 17 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation (read here and here).

Virus linked to food sensitivity: Researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine investigated whether two strains of a common but harmless virus that people are frequently exposed to, called reoviruses, can prompt sensitivity to dietary proteins. The strains studied, called T1L and T3D-RV, triggered an immune response that protected mice against the infection. However, animals infected with TL1 also showed altered immune responses in the gut. The team also found that people with celiac disease had higher levels of reovirus antibodies than controls. Results were published in Science on April 7.

NIDDK to encourage research on atypical forms of diabetes: NIDDK is investing in research to foster the study of people with rare or atypical forms of diabetes. Dedicated efforts to discover and study these forms of diabetes aim to aid patients by enhancing understanding of their disease and to broaden our insight into the heterogeneity of type 2 diabetes among the general population. The funding opportunity, “Center for Identification and Study of Individuals with Atypical Diabetes Mellitus,” calls for a center to identify and study people with rare and uncharacterized forms of diabetes as well as to develop a repository for data and biospecimens. Letters of intent are due Oct. 2. Applications are due Nov. 2.

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