Summer 2013 NIDDK Director's Update
In November, we lost a giant in the world of diabetes research. Dr. George Eisenbarth was a friend, colleague and mentor to many, and an example of how much one person can improve the health of multitudes. In late March, I had the honor of speaking at a memorial for him and seeing just a few of the people who cared about him and who have taken as their own his goal of curing type 1 diabetes.
To look at George’s life’s work is to see clearly how far a research career can resonate. George achieved one of life’s greatest accomplishments – he had a positive and profound effect on people’s lives, including many of those who never knew him.
While research is conducted by teams, the talents and drive of individuals are what make those teams dynamic, and George embodied this. The research engine he drove – at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Denver and, prior to that, the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston – contributed to advances represented in more than 500 published works – including papers like “Type 1 Diabetes: A chronic autoimmune disease,” which characterized the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes as a progression from genetic susceptibility through environmental triggers and gradual beta cell destruction. This model continues to guide the field toward its goal of preventing type 1 diabetes.
George was an NIH grantee since 1979, an NIH MERIT awardee, and a former NIH fellow under Nobelist Marshall Nirenberg. George’s work helped lead to the formation of the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young Study (TEDDY), as well as many other groundbreaking studies. In many ways, these studies could be considered living memorials to George.
In his labs and many voluntary efforts for NIH and other organizations, George was known as inspiring and tenacious in his quest to cure type 1 diabetes, yet generous, highly ethical and humble in pursuit of this goal. George’s work has led the way to many advances in detection and management of type 1. It has also inspired dozens of his former trainees to continue pursuing his research goals and commitment to training.
George Eisenbarth’s legacy at NIH and around the diabetes community results from his outstanding scientific achievement, his service to the type 1 diabetes prevention researchers, the many scientists he mentored and the role model he provided as a creative, compassionate, and caring physician scientist. We honor him, and we emulate his example.
In good health,
Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P.
Director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
NIDDK-supported projects win HHSinnovates awards
Two projects with NIDDK contributions – a national obesity campaign that teamed public and private organizations and a body weight simulator using the latest scientific advances – were among the six groundbreaking projects selected on March 19 as winners in the HHSinnovates awards. The projects were chosen from among 36 finalists and three NIH winners. The third NIH winner is a project linking Alzheimer’s research volunteers to support services.
“I am delighted to see our employees' hard work, dedication, and creativity recognized by these prestigious awards,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins in a March 20 email to NIH staff.
The Weight of the Nation Campaign was one of three “Secretary’s Pick” winners, chosen by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. A collaboration among HBO, NIH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Institute of Medicine, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente, this multimedia project illustrates how federal agencies can work together and with private organizations on innovative approaches to address obesity in the United States.
The four-part HBO documentary series highlighted several NIH research advances and addressed factors contributing to the country’s obesity problem. The films are the centerpiece to a public awareness campaign, which also includes a nationwide community-based outreach effort. For more information: www.hhs.gov/open/initiatives/hhsinnovates/round6/weight-nation-campaign.html.
People from across NIDDK took part in this process, from vetting scientific information to discussing NIH research on camera to publicizing NIH’s role in the series. In addition, staff from several other ICs assisted in this project and 25 NIH grantees appeared in the films. NIDDK participants came from the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases; Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition; Division of Intramural Research; Office of Communications and Public Liaison; and Office of Scientific Program and Policy Analysis.
The Body Weight Simulator earned an honorable mention in the awards. To advance the science of weight loss prediction and provide more accurate, personalized weight management programs, investigators from the intramural Laboratory of Biological Modeling developed the Body Weight Simulator.
This innovative online tool, which has been scientifically vetted and is being tested to determine practical utility, accurately models changes in body fat and metabolism in response to diet or exercise. Since its launch in 2011, the Body Weight Simulator has been accessed online by over 750,000 visitors. For more information: www.hhs.gov/open/initiatives/hhsinnovates/round6/body-weight-simulator.html.
“These two winning projects could not have happened without NIDDK staff,” said NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers. “The ingenuity displayed in these projects helps us achieve the NIDDK mission to improve people’s health and quality of life.”
For more about HHSinnovates and this year’s winners: www.hhs.gov/open/discussion/innovation-going-viral.html.
Collaboration leads to better imaging, better research and diagnosis
By Krysten Carrera
In 2011, NIDDK and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) joined forces to share their expertise and sophisticated imaging tools to advance research on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other challenging health conditions. This joint operation, in the heart of the NIH Clinical Center, is called the Biomedical and Metabolic Imaging Branch (BMIB).
|A multidetector computerized tomography 3D recontructed image shows a whole heart (center) from a person with Cushing's syndrome. |
Photo credit: Courtesy of the NIDDK Biomedical and Metabolic Imaging Branch.
“Our multidisciplinary team includes imaging physicists, spectroscopists, and clinicians,” said NIDDK senior radiologist Dr. Ahmed Gharib, who manages the branch. BMIB staff use state-of-the-art imaging equipment and have developed new techniques to benefit a variety of patients and support an expansive range of research across NIH. Using high-quality imaging gives researchers and clinicians a more accurate – and sometimes earlier – depiction of a developing disease, while low-quality images increase the likelihood of misdiagnosis. For example, a low-resolution liver scan may blur important details, such as tiny tumors.
“Advances in imaging allow us to view parts of the body at a level of anatomic and functional detail and speed that had not been possible in the past,” said Gharib. “This has made a big impact in translational biomedical research.”
The BMIB grew out of NIDDK’s Integrated Cardiovascular Imaging Lab, which focused on demonstrating the link between metabolic syndrome (a combination of factors that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes) and atherogenesis (the formation of lesions in arterial walls). Today BMIB researchers work with the NIDDK-led Metabolic Clinical Research Unit (MCRU) to investigate the interrelationship between obesity, coronary heart disease, and other conditions. MCRU patients often go to the BMIB to be scanned in its 3-tesla MRI machine, which can accommodate people who weigh up to 500 pounds.
The work done at BMIB encompasses a broad array of research. In keeping with NIH’s focus on collaboration, BMIB staff scientists work closely with other institutes—such as NICHD, NIAID, and NHLBI—that also depend on advanced imaging. For example, improvements in temporal resolution allow researchers to view and quantify the thickening of the coronary artery wall, the earliest stage of coronary artery disease. In the future, these new techniques may be used to monitor the effects of therapies and screen people at risk for coronary artery disease and other conditions.
“The collaborative infrastructure at NIH has enabled all of us to work together more efficiently,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers. “The Biomedical and Metabolic Imaging Branch is an excellent example of what can be accomplished through ongoing partnerships within NIH.”
STEP-UP opens lab in Federated States of Micronesia
By Krysten Carrera
|To celebrate the opening of a new NIDDK laboratory in the Federated States of Micronesia, eight Micronesian students participating in NIDDK’s Short-Term Education Program for Underrepresented Persons stand with community leaders, including U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Michael A. “Miguel” Ordoñez (third from left, back row), as well as Dr. Lawrence Agodoa, Director of NIDDK’s Office of Minority Health Research Coordination (third from right, back row).|
Photo credit: Danielle Clements, Pacific STEP-UP Program Assistant
NIDDK’s Short-Term Education Program for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP) celebrated the opening of its Molecular Biology Lab in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), in a ceremony on April 30. The audience included the eight Micronesian students accepted to this summer’s STEP-UP training, their friends and relatives, and staff from the Pohnpei Board of Education.
U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Michael A. “Miguel” Ordoñez also attended the event on behalf of the U.S. Embassy in FSM. He spoke briefly about the importance of scientific education and training, calling the STEP-UP program a “great opportunity to conduct research to impact people’s lives…and improve health outcomes for people in FSM.”
STEP-UP provides research opportunities for students from groups underrepresented in biomedical research, including students with disabilities, those from a disadvantaged background, and certain racial and ethnic minorities such as Pacific Islanders. The facility is the fourth STEP-UP lab to be built in a U.S.-administered or affiliated territory of the Pacific region. The other labs are in American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Republic of the Marshall Islands. The program will establish its fifth and last planned lab in Republic of Palau.
“Students in the Pacific region often live thousands of miles away from facilities that can support cutting-edge research,” said Dr. Lawrence Agodoa, Director of NIDDK’s Office of Minority Health Research Coordination, which manages the STEP-UP program. “By providing laboratories and training local science teachers as mentors, we expose students to the newest biomedical research techniques without them needing to travel far from home.”
As part of STEP-UP training, students work over the summer at one of several NIDDK-funded labs, including the new lab in Pohnpei. Most of the students participating in the NIDDK STEP-UP program present their research at the NIH in Bethesda at the conclusion of the summer program.
“We are excited to welcome students in Pohnpei and in all our labs this summer,” said Agodoa. “Our hope is that the experience will encourage many to pursue biomedical research as a career.”
NIDDK employees donate blood during inaugural drive
By Krysten Carrera
On behalf of the NIH Blood Bank and in honor of World Kidney Day on March 14, NIDDK sponsored its Inaugural Blood Drive from March 11 to March 15. All NIDDK staff and their families were invited to participate. Throughout the week, 14 employees from NIDDK donated blood, including six new donors.
“The Blood Bank sincerely appreciates NIDDK’s contribution on behalf of our patients,” said Alan Decot, NIH Blood Bank donor recruitment coordinator. “Because blood components from just one donor can help up to three people, NIDDK’s donations have the potential to make a difference in up to 42 patients’ lives.”
The availability of a safe blood supply is one of the most important aspects of the health care system, and the Blood Bank relies on the generosity of the NIH community to fulfill the need for approximately 600 pints of blood each month. However, donors need not work at NIH to give – anyone can help. Each day, patients in the Clinical Center are treated with donated blood. Blood donations are critical for the care not only of kidney patients but also for other patients with diseases in NIDDK’s research mission, such as those with liver and blood diseases.
“Our employees have provided a critical service to those who are in need,” said NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers. “I am hopeful that we can make the success of this year’s blood drive an annual event.”
To learn more about blood donation or schedule an appointment to donate, call (301) 496-1048 or go to www.cc.nih.gov/blooddonor/.
|Type 1 diabetes network expands reach with online sign-up, nationwide testing: The NIH-funded Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet study seeks volunteers to help discover ways to delay or prevent T1D. People with a family history of type 1diabetes can now conveniently participate in free screening to help find ways to delay or prevent the disease, even if they live far from a study site. This alternative to site-based initial screening comes as modern technology enables more secure online registration for medical research. www.nih.gov/news/health/may2013/niddk-06.htm |
NKDEP group to help pharmacists educate people with kidney disease
By Bill Polglase
Typically, pharmacists face many barriers in providing care to patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). In some cases, pharmacists may not feel comfortable talking about CKD with patients. Pharmacists may also have limited time and clinical information for counseling patients in a busy community setting.
To better enable pharmacists to become involved in improving CKD care, the National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP) formed the NKDEP Pharmacy Working Group. Since July 2012, the group has been working to help resolve clinical and scientific pharmacist issues around CKD. As a beginning, the group is developing a continuing education program focusing on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Commonly prescribed by doctors and available over-the-counter, NSAIDs can lead to acute kidney injury, especially in CKD patients.
“Pharmacists are in the ideal position for educating patients,” said NKDEP Director Dr. Andrew Narva. “They have frequent contact with these patients and can focus on the safe use of drugs.”
As well, the group is exploring a pilot project to team with major online prescription networks to automatically include the patient’s most recent estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) – the standard for assessing kidney function – on electronic prescriptions. This would help pharmacists ensure the safe dosing and administration of the multiple medications that many CKD patients take, as well as giving the pharmacist information to initiate counseling on CKD for high-risk patients.
“Through the efforts of this working group, we hope to increase the number of pharmacists who can educate CKD patients on medicines and chronic kidney disease,” said Dr. Amy Barton Pai, associate professor at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and chair of the NKDEP Pharmacy Working Group. “We want to enable pharmacists to establish community pharmacies as places for patients to receive information about CKD.”
For more information on chronic kidney disease and medicines, go to: http://nkdep.nih.gov/resources/CKD-Medicines.shtml.
NDEP webinars offer education at your location
The National Diabetes Education Program’s Quarterly Webinar Series explores some of the latest advances and challenges in diabetes prevention and control. The webinars provide timely information that supports the work of NDEP partners and others in the diabetes community who are working to improve diabetes treatment and outcomes, to promote early diagnosis, and to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Past topics – archived online – include diabetes and cardiovascular disease, behavior change, diabetes in children and adolescents, promoting health after gestational diabetes, and diabetes and nutrition in the Latino community. In May, the NDEP will host a webinar on the “Unique Needs and Latest Recommendations for Older Adults with Diabetes.”
“These webinars provide NDEP partners with an opportunity to hear from an expert on the practical application of the latest science on diabetes prevention and control,” said NDEP Director Joanne Gallivan. “The webinars also help people learn about NDEP tools and resources to support this information.”
During the webinars, participants have a chance to interact with the presenters through a moderated question-and-answer session.
To learn more about NDEP webinars or view previous webinars, visit www.ndep.nih.gov/resources/webinars/.
NIH program makes it easier to talk about bowel control
June marks the second anniversary of the NIDDK Bowel Control Awareness Campaign, Let’s Talk about Bowel Control!
Bowel control problems, also known as fecal incontinence, affect an estimated 18 million U.S. adults — 1 out of 12 people. Most bowel control problems improve with treatment; however, many people do not seek help due to embarrassment. Both lack of treatment and embarrassment can have a crippling effect on quality of life.
The Bowel Control Awareness Campaign and its online resources help people understand bowel control problems, a condition believed to be widely underdiagnosed. Fecal incontinence is more common among women and older adults. Increased body mass, decreased physical activity, depression, and diabetes may also increase risk.
Developed by the NIDDK, along with professional and voluntary organizations that focus on fecal incontinence, the awareness campaign offers the following resources about the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and management of bowel control problems:
- A fact sheet on fecal incontinence
- An easy-to-read booklet on bowel control (in English and Spanish)
- A stool diary for patients and health care providers
- NIH bowel control research information
- Links to professional and voluntary organizations
Since the initial launch, the awareness campaign has distributed nearly 3,500 resource materials. These resources are available through the campaign’s website at www.bowelcontrol.nih.gov and the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse's website at www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov.
Planning and Grant ResourcesNIDDK funding opportunities and deadlines: http://www2.niddk.nih.gov/Funding/FundingOpportunities/
Grants and contract notices: www2.niddk.nih.gov/Funding/FundingOpportunities/Notices/
NIDDK Job Opportunities
Find an exciting new position at the NIDDK! Job opportunities are updated regularly. Check back often to view vacancies, as positions are advertised for 5-10 days. For more information, go to: www2.niddk.nih.gov/AboutNIDDK/NIDDKJobOpportunities/.
||Dr. Peter H. Bennett, scientist emeritus in the NIDDK intramural Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch, will receive the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 2013 Albert Renold Award at the ADA’s 73rd Scientific Sessions in June. The award is one of the ADA’s highest scientific honors, given annually to an individual who has made significant impact as a mentor of diabetes researchers and/or as a facilitator of a community of diabetes investigators. Bennett has directly mentored more than 50 scientists, many of whom now hold leadership positions in academic and federal institutions focused on diabetes and its complications. |
||Dr. Susan Buchanan, senior investigator in the NIDDK intramural Laboratory of Molecular Biology, received the 2013 Southeast Regional Collaborative Access Team (SER-CAT) Outstanding Science Award and was honored at a March 15 symposium at the University of Georgia. The award recognizes her publication, “Structural basis for iron piracy by pathogenic Neisseria.” Findings from the study may assist the design of drugs and vaccines for bacterial meningitis, septicemia and gonorrhea.|
||Dr. Jeffrey B. Kopp, principal investigator in the NIDDK intramural Kidney Diseases Branch, has been granted tenure. He leads a translational research group that focuses on focal segmental glomerulosclerosis and related podocyte diseases. He is also a consulting nephrologist at the NIH Clinical Center and is a commissioned officer with the U.S. Public Health Service, holding the rank of captain. |
||Dr. Sushil G. Rane, senior investigator in the NIDDK intramural Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch, has been granted tenure. He leads the Cell Growth and Metabolism Section that focuses on Cell Cycle Regulators and TGF-β superfamily signaling in obesity, diabetes and its complications. Dr. Rane also co-chairs the TGF-beta Superfamily Special Interest Group. |
||Dr. Michael Krashes joined the Energy Homeostasis Section of the NIDDK intramural Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch. Krashes' interests include how the brain processes hunger/satiety signals and controls food intake. He earned his Ph.D. at University of Massachusetts Medical School and completed a post-doctoral position at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital.|
A Fond Farewell
||Dr. James (Jay) Everhart, chief of the Epidemiology and Clinical Trials Branch in NIDDK’s Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition (DDN), retired at the end of March. He worked at NIDDK for nearly 30 years, beginning as a medical staff fellow in epidemiology in what is now the intramural Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch, before joining the extramural DDN as a medical officer in 1986. He pursued wide-ranging epidemiological research, as well as the design and conduct of complex clinical research studies, including the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) trial and the Adult to Adult Living Donor Liver Transplantation, or A2ALL, consortium. Dr. Everhart has authored more than 200 research papers and book chapters. He is a recipient of the NIH Director’s Award and the American Gastroenterological Association’s Research Service Award. |
||Longtime NIDDK grantee Dr. George Eisenbarth died in November 2012. He was the executive director and a professor in medicine, pediatrics, and immunology at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Denver. Previously, he had served as director of the Division of Immunology and Immunogenetics at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston and had completed an NIH fellowship early in his career under Nobel Laureate Marshall Nirenberg. Dr. Eisenbarth contributed to more than 500 publications, and his work helped lead to the formation of the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, as well as many other studies. He earned continual NIH funding since 1979, including as an NIH MERIT awardee in 1992, and won many prestigious awards for both research and training. Image courtesy of University of Colorado School of Medicine. (Editor’s note: Read more about Dr. Eisenbarth in the Director’s Note in this issue.) |
The next edition of the NIDDK Director’s Update will be online at www.directorsupdate.niddk.nih.gov in September.
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Page last updated: April 30, 2013