NIH grant to
fund research at OU-COM
into possible causes, prevention of
type 1 diabetes
October 25, 2010
– Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM) announced
today it was awarded a $221,250 grant from the National Institutes
of Health (NIH) to study molecules related to the onset of type 1
diabetes and evaluate the effectiveness of a potentially novel new
drug for the treatment and prevention of the disease.
Investigator Kelly McCall, Ph.D., assistant professor of
endocrinology, will head a team of investigators that include OU-COM
researchers and faculty members Frank Schwartz, M.D., professor of
endocrinology; Calvin James, Ph.D., associate professor of virology;
Ramiro Malgor, M.D., associate professor of pathology; and Fabian
Benencia, Ph.D., assistant professor of immunology.
diabetes is a serious disease, and in 2006, it was documented as the
seventh leading cause of death in the United States. It is an
autoimmune disorder that occurs when the pancreas no longer produces
enough insulin to properly control the body’s glucose levels,
allowing excess sugar to build up in the bloodstream. When there is
not enough insulin to carry sugar into the body’s cells, converting
it into energy, it can cause life-threatening complications such as
heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults
when symptoms become noticeable. This generally occurs after
the pancreas is severely damaged and insulin injections are
necessary for survival.
cause of type 1 diabetes is only partially understood,” said McCall,
whose research focuses on autoimmune-inflammatory diseases such as
diabetes, cancer, atherosclerosis, colitis and Graves’ disease.
“What we do
know is that the pancreatic cells that produce insulin are mistaken
as foreign by the body’s immune system and are destroyed, causing
insulin insufficiency and type 1 diabetes,” McCall said. “Recent
studies have implicated a specific signaling pathway that is
abnormally activated in the pancreas of some individuals with type 1
diabetes, and may be important in the very early stages of the
disease process, triggering the body’s attack on their own
There is a
genetic tendency for people to develop the disease, and there is
nothing that can be done to prevent type 1 diabetes. Once it
has developed, it requires a life-long commitment to daily
management. There is no cure for the disease, but McCall and her
team of investigators hope to gain important information about a
signaling pathway activated by a virus that may be involved in the
onset of type 1 diabetes. The findings could help with earlier
diagnosis of the disease, resulting in a delay in, or significant
control of, the complications.
conducted over the next two years with this NIH grant will help
investigators better understand the molecular basis for the
development of type 1 diabetes and test the effectiveness of a
potential new drug to treat the disease.
of this grant is confirmation that our research here at Ohio
University has been recognized at the national level as important
for the advancement of the scientific understanding of the molecular
basis of type 1 diabetes and holds promise of a novel approach to
the treatment of type 1 diabetes,” McCall said.
Through a $2.6
million grant received from the NIH last year, a multidisciplinary
team of investigators, including McCall, are conducting preclinical
studies which will bring a new drug to the point of Phase I/II
clinical trials for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. This drug
has also shown some promise in preliminary studies as a possible
novel treatment for type 1 diabetes. These studies will enable this
new drug to be evaluated for its effectiveness in preventing
virus-induced type 1 diabetes.
delaying the complications of type 1 diabetes will lead to a longer
and better quality of life for those inflicted with this disease.