Executive Director, Ohio University Diabetes Institute
Professor, Food and Nutrition,
Associate Professor, joint appointment, Biomedical Sciences, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
Applied Health Sciences and Wellness
College of Health Sciences and Professions
Dr. Darlene Berryman holds a joint appointment in the College of Health Sciences and Professions and the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is the Executive Director of The Diabetes Institute at Ohio University and the Interim Director of the Research Division.
Berryman is an expert on nutrition with a specific focus on how nutrients are processed, metabolized and stored in the body. Her current research is on obesity, with an emphasis on the impact fat tissue has on the body. Fat tissue has been ignored for years because it was commonly regarded as very simple, however, it is a lot more complicated than we thought, Berryman says.
“We have a lot to learn about that tissue if we are going to be able to cure obesity,” she says, adding that while many people are aware of the obesity epidemic they are much less educated about the factors impacting obesity.
“There are factors that have changed in our society that have influenced obesity, which are not the standard exercise and diet,” Berryman says. “For example, temperature influences fat tissue. Over the last 20 years, society has been moved into a comfortable living zone at a comfortable living temperature, which has an effect on fat tissue. There are other factors in the equation that we don’t understand at all, but if we understood them better they could potentially be used as a therapeutic to prevent or treat obesity.”
Berryman collaborates on research with, Dr. John Kopchick, Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor of molecular biology. Kopchick, an expert in human growth hormone, has developed mice models with varying levels of growth hormones and interesting health and obesity patterns. The team focuses on two of the models – a healthy, fat and long-lived group with no growth hormone action, and an opposite group of lean mice with very little fat tissue and are short-lived. Berryman hopes to find out how growth hormones influence fat tissue and also answer: What is it about fat tissue that causes health problems?
As director of the Diabetes Institute (DI), Berryman has many goals for the team to accomplish over the next five years, as the vision of the institute is to one day create a diabetes-free society.
The institute conducts research relating to and emphasizing obesity and diabetes, causes and treatment of diabetes complications, development of novel therapies to treat diabetes, unique aspects of the Appalachian region and coping with diabetes and related diseases. The DI supports significant strides toward reducing the diabetes burden regionally, nationally and globally through the further development of diabetes research, clinical care, education and community outreach.
A unique collaborative program, the DI is not focused only on research or research and education. OHIO’s DI is made up of four different divisions, including clinical services, outreach, education and research. Within the next five years, the institute hopes to expand clinical services and provide exceptional care to patients by putting multiple different fields relevant to diabetes all under one roof, Berryman says.
In the coming years, Berryman and her team plan on expanding the research division with a new home for the institute in order to integrate all aspects of diabetes care and the addition of more faculty members working on obesity and diabetes research.
“We are putting all of the pieces together under one roof in order to make this new institute synergized and efficient,” she says.