City of Hope is looking towards the future in diabetes research

November 14, 2015 | by Veronique de Turenne

It’s World Diabetes Day and City of Hope is joining the international effort to raise awareness of this deadly disease. We’re lighting our water tower blue to represent the World Diabetes Day logo, and offering educational materials about the disease.

The Museum of Art and History in Lancaster has joined us in the Blue Monument Challenge, a World Diabetes Day observance in which more than 1,000 monuments and buildings in more than 80 countries have been illuminated in blue for diabetes awareness since its inception in 2007.

It’s more than mere symbolism. If you’re one of the 29.1 million Americans now living with diabetes, City of Hope has already changed your life.

A leader in diabetes research

In 1949, when City of Hope researcher Rachmiel Levine, M.D.,  uncovered how insulin behaves within the body, significant study into controlling diabetes became possible for the first time. In 1968, Samuel Rahbar, M.D., discovered that glycated hemoglobin, also known as HgbA1c, is elevated in people with diabetes.

The breakthroughs continued. In the late 1970s, City of Hope researchers Arthur Riggs, M.D., and Keiichi Itakura, M.D. taught e-coli bacteria how to manufacture synthetic insulin. This made disease management accessible to millions of sufferers throughout the world.

Considered a global epidemic, diabetes is a leading cause of kidney disease, and the third-leading cause of blindness. Nerve disease caused by type 2 diabetes is the leading cause of amputation among diabetes sufferers. Diabetes affects nearly 350 million people throughout the world.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 174 million cases of diabetes remain undiagnosed worldwide, with African Americans, Latinos, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are disproportionately affected by the disease.

How City of Hope is helping

Now, with the recent opening of the Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute, and breakthroughs in the promising area of islet cell therapy, City of Hope continues its longstanding commitment to fighting the disease. Scientists are working on the genetic and molecular mechanisms that cause diabetes, studying the relationship between diabetes and cancer, and developing targeted therapies to stop the disease.

For Gina Marchini, a 33-year-old kindergarten teacher from Palmer, Alaska, City of Hope’s groundbreaking research means that for the first time in 24 years, she is living insulin-free. Just hours after an islet cell transplant, her blood glucose results were at normal levels.

City of Hope’s work in diabetes continues to receive support. The National Institutes of Health recently gave a $2.2 million grant to Rama Natarajan, Ph.D, chair of the Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism within the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Institute. The three-year grant allows Natarajan and her team to investigate the role of ‘metabolic memory’ in diabetes complications.

Look to the future

Looking to once again revolutionize how diabetes is treated, City of Hope is developing an analytic tool to harness the power of algorithms to craft individualized treatment plans. Using multiple data points to generate a model of how each patient’s body uses glucose, it will allow doctors of craft comprehensive treatment plans with ongoing feedback on medication, diet and exercise.

In the laboratory of Janice Huss, Ph.D., researchers are studying how the insulin-responsive tissue responds to changes in diet and exercise. The goal is to determine whether a new class of drugs will be able to prevent diet-induced obesity, or mimic the beneficial effects of exercise on whole body glucose control.

Can a plant help cells in diabetes patients become more sensitive to insulin? That’s what Wendong Huang, Ph.D is exploring as he and his colleagues investigate the properties of berberine, a chemical derivative of the barberry plant.

Fouad Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D, is developing the real-time imaging of islet cells, which will allow doctors to use a radio-labeled protein to monitor the survival and function of islet cells after a transplant. Not only will this type of imaging help ensure survival of a new graft, it will also make it possible to monitor the native islet cells in patients newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

With research into new therapies, work on fighting diabetes complications, the development of gene- and cell-based therapies, and continuing diabetes education, City of Hope continues to be one of the most influential diabetes research programs in the world.

Learn more about our diabetes research,treatments and our unique patient experience. If you are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.


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