NIDDK Director's Update Summer 2021

Research Updates

Study in mice highlights new pathway as potential asthma treatment

Researchers from NIDDK and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that using antagonists to target the P2Y14 receptor in mice suppressed allergic asthma and reduced white blood cell infiltration to the lungs. Targeting this receptor, which plays a role in the neuroimmune system, may be an effective treatment for allergic asthma and other chronic conditions. If proven effective in humans, this approach could be an important treatment option as many people with allergic asthma don’t respond to glucocorticoids, a first-line treatment option for asthma. This research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in April.

NIDDK study suggests new risk factor for type 2 diabetes in a Native American cohort

The researchers explored whether a lower metabolic clearance rate of insulin, the rate at which insulin is removed from circulation, puts people at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Results from longitudinal data from 570 Native American adults, who did not have diabetes at baseline, showed that lower insulin clearance was associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, independent of other established risk factors for the disease. In addition, lower insulin clearance was associated with unfavorable metabolic characteristics in participants, including higher body fat percentage and impaired glucose regulation. The findings, published in April in Diabetologia, could lead to the development of intervention strategies that target insulin clearance to help prevent type 2 diabetes.

NIDDK research identifies potential approach to treating diabetes and prediabetes

In an exploratory study with 16 participants, NIDDK scientists found that short-term treatment with the drug mifepristone improved insulin sensitivity in the liver and fatty tissues of people who were overweight or obese and had prediabetes or mild type 2 diabetes. Mifepristone belongs to a class of medications, called antiglucocorticoids, that inhibit the glucocorticoid receptor, which regulates the body’s inflammatory response. Results of the study suggest that the glucocorticoid receptor might be a therapeutic target for treating diabetes and other conditions involving insulin resistance. Findings were published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in January.

Preventive treatment reduces diabetic retinopathy complications

Image of doctor and patient
A doctor examines a patient’s eyes
Credit: Raj Maturi, M.D., Indiana University

In a study partly funded by NIDDK, early treatment with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) injections slowed diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue in the retina. However, two years into the four-year study, the early treatment’s effect on vision – including changes in visual acuity and vision loss - was similar to standard treatment, which usually begins only after the onset of late disease. The intermediate findings from the DRCR Retina Network (DRCR.net) published in JAMA Ophthalmology in March. The study is ongoing and the four-year data will be analyzed to determine if the anti-VEGF injections leads to long-term improvement in visual outcomes.

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