November 10, 2014 | by Nicole White
City of Hope has a longstanding commitment to combating diabetes, a leading national and global health threat. Already, it’s scored some successes, from research that led to the development of synthetic human insulin – still used by millions of patients – to potentially lifesaving islet cell transplants.
Diabetes researchers here continue to push forward in the fields of epigenetics, immunology, developmental biology, translational medicine, obesity, nutrition and metabolism. A pioneer in translational research for diabetes, City of Hope serves as the West Coast’s leading center for islet cell therapy, and is a leader in epigenetics and molecular research. Its diabetes program is built on a rich history that started with its founder, Rachmiel Levine, M.D. He was the first scientist to describe the role of insulin in regulating glucose entry into the cell. That work led to an understanding of what’s now known as “insulin resistance,” the hallmark of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes comes in two basic types. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. In this disease, the body attacks its own pancreatic islet cells, which produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy the body needs. In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't use insulin properly, leading to blood sugar levels that are higher than normal – also called hyperglycemia. At first, the pancreas produces extra insulin to compensate, but over time it isn’t able to keep up and can't maintain normal glucose levels.
To mark World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14, consider these diabetes facts. They drive our researchers year-round to keep looking for cures:
1. In 2012 – the most recent statistics available – 29.1 million Americans had diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That’s 9.3 percent of the population. 2. More than 8.1 million cases of diabetes were undiagnosed in 2012. 3. An increasing number of Americans over age 20 have prediabetes – 86 million in 2012, up from 79 million in 2010. 4. More than one out of three adults have prediabetes – and nine out of 10 adults with prediabetes do not know they have it, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 5. In a given time period, the risk of death is 50 percent higher in adults with diabetes, than in adults without it, according to the CDC. 6. Blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and loss of toes, feet or legs are serious potential health complications of diabetes. 7. Type 1 diabetes accounts about 5 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes and is not preventable. Type 2 can be delayed or prevented by losing weight, eating a healthy diet and being more active.
Learn more about diabetes research at City of Hope.