New Website for Diabetes Research Launched by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

November 6, 2008

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Diabetes Research Center of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center has launched a new website to provide an overview of more than $23 million in diabetes-related studies now under way. The breadth of active research – outlined at -- places the institution on the front lines of research centers racing to solve what has emerged as this century’s pandemic.
Scientists and physician-researchers at Wake Forest Baptist are approaching diabetes from every angle, including basic science studies that seek to understand the molecular mechanisms of diabetes, research focused on the genetics of diabetes in minority populations, studies on diabetes and aging, childhood obesity and diabetes prevention, stem cell research and regenerative medicine, and population-based studies that seek better methods of treatment and prevention.

Wake Forest Baptist established the Diabetes Research Center in 2006 to extend its already expansive multidisciplinary research programs to identify causes of diabetes and to develop new approaches for prevention and treatment of diabetes and associated complications. Today, more than 75 studies are under way in more than a dozen departments, spanning laboratory and clinical research. The Medical Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among America’s top 50 hospitals for endocrinology and metabolism, the specialty that covers diabetes, as well as for kidney disease, which can be a diabetes-related complication.

“Diabetes mellitus is the pandemic of the new millennium,” said Donald W. Bowden, Ph.D., director of the Diabetes Research Center. In diabetes, the body either fails to produce enough insulin or fails to properly use it to metabolize blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone that is essential to convert sugar from food into energy.

“It can be a devastating disease, affecting the heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves and brain. Our scientists and physicians are tackling diabetes from every angle looking for solutions,” said Bowden, professor of biochemistry and internal medicine (endocrinology/metabolism).
Bowden is an internationally known researcher specializing in diabetes in African-Americans and author of more than 200 scientific publications. He currently leads a study focused on identifying genetic causes of Type 2 diabetes. In 2004 he reported that a gene called PTPN1, found on chromosome 20, is involved in the body’s response to insulin and leads to Type 2 diabetes.

The new Diabetes Research Center website describes research under way across the Medical Center. At the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, for example, researchers are working to develop pancreatic beta cells for production of insulin using a mouse model of diabetes. Multiple studies at Wake Forest Baptist are being funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to identify genes within the human genome that affect diabetes risk, insulin sensitivity, beta cell function and obesity.

Wake Forest Baptist is also a major participant in NIH-sponsored trials targeting diabetes prevention and prevention of cardiovascular disease and other complications of diabetes. The Division of Public Health Sciences is the coordinating center for ACCORD (Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes), which has 10,251 diabetic enrollees, and Look AHEAD, which is investigating whether a lifestyle intervention designed to produce weight loss can prevent heart disease in obese people with diabetes. To learn more about these and other studies, go online:

Diabetes has a devastating impact on the public health of the United States, and its reach is increasing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 23.6 million people -- 7.8 percent of the population -- had diabetes in 2007. Of those, 5.7 million were unaware they had the disease. Overall, the risk of death for people with diabetes is about twice that of people without diabetes of similar age. While diabetes is likely to be underreported as a cause of death, it was the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2006. In 2007, about 1.6 million adults age 20 and over were newly diagnosed with diabetes.

“Our understanding of the causes of diabetes is still incomplete. While treatments for diabetes have improved in recent years, they delay but do not prevent the complications of diabetes. These facts emphasize the importance of continued research to provide new insights and new treatments for this devastating disease,” said Bowden.

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