NIH awards City of Hope $2.2 million grant for study of diabetes, epigenetics

October 7, 2015

Researchers hope to ultimately identify window of intervention for diabetes complications

DUARTE, Calif. — The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health has awarded a $2.2 million grant to help City of Hope researchers expand their knowledge of how nonpermanent, but inheritable, changes within chromosomes can lead to inflammation and blood vessel damage in some people with type 1 diabetes. That damage in turn can lead to blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart attacks and even death.
The grant, awarded to Rama Natarajan, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism within the Diabetes and Metabolism Institute, will help researchers explore the role that such changes, caused by epigenetics, play in the progression of diabetes complications. The new grant will help the City of Hope researchers advance their understanding of how prior episodes of hyperglycemia can lead to a “metabolic memory” of persistent vascular complications, despite subsequent glycemic control. The ultimate goal is to help identify a window of intervention.
Recent evidence has suggested that epigenetic factors may regulate genes associated with diabetic complications, but without permanently altering the underlying DNA itself, as would happen in a genetic mutation. With this awareness of metabolic memory, Natarajan noted, “We now have a window of opportunity for therapeutic intervention, because although some of these changes can be passed on to future generations, they are not written into our DNA.”
Natarajan has been at the forefront of research on the complications of diabetes and the first to study epigenetic changes in diabetic vascular complications and metabolic memory. “This new grant will enhance our ability to gain ground against the complications of type 1 diabetes,” she said.
To accomplish this, her team will perform epigenomic profiling studies with stored biosamples from patients with type 1 diabetes who are also experiencing metabolic memory.
“Our studies could lead to identifying new biomarkers for early detection and more effective therapies for the debilitating complications of type 1 diabetes,” Natarajan said.
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Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Grant Number 1DP3DK106917-01.The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Tami Dennis
[email protected]
About City of Hope
City of Hope is an independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as a comprehensive cancer center, the highest recognition bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is also a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, with research and treatment protocols that advance care throughout the nation. City of Hope’s main hospital is located in Duarte, California, just northeast of Los Angeles, with community clinics in southern California. It is ranked as one of "America's Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation and genetics.