Winter 2010 NIDDK Director's Update
I had my first glimpse of a scientist at work when I was very young. My mother, a public health nurse, would spend weekends in housing developments and community clinics, often helping those without health insurance. I saw how she would listen to her patients, apply rigorous logic to their problems, and help solve them – all with great compassion for the people she served.
Not much later in life, I learned the effects of a disease that hadn’t been solved.
I saw three friends suffer and die from sickle cell disease. I couldn’t do anything to help them. But I could learn to help others, and so I pursued a career in medicine, focusing on hematology. Along the way, so many people helped me out. At Brown University, Dr. Pierre Galletti and Dr. Herbert Lichtman let me work in their labs and learn from their expertise. Within NIDDK, Dr. Alan Schechter has been an invaluable mentor to me from the beginning. He offered advice as I wrote the fellowship grant that first enabled me to work at NIH and later helped me learn to do basic and translational science, while Dr. Arthur Nienhuis at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute helped me understand the process of clinical research.
At NIDDK, we strive to inspire and support the next generations of scientists as they blaze their own paths to discovery. NIH holds a Graduate Research Festival and grant-writing workshops. It funds fellows and offers a wealth of academic courses to help scientists of all ages advance their knowledge. Through NIDDK’s Office of Minority Health Research Coordination, we bring high school and college students from as far away as Guam and American Samoa for a taste of real research in a real lab. We also reach out to talk with young learners about the importance of science, as I did recently at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., and provide curricula for grades K-12.
This month our Institute completes its 60th anniversary. In September, we held a scientific symposium, an event where more than 200 people, from patients to researchers – including Dr. Jeffrey Friedman on the day his and Dr. Douglas Coleman’s Lasker Award was announced – came together to share and pool knowledge, and to think about where the next generation of knowledge will come from.
At the symposium, we heard from scientists whose industrious careers have enhanced worldwide understanding of diseases both within and outside of NIDDK’s mission. For many of them, NIDDK support has been integral to the continuance of their research.
And we saw researchers nearer to the beginning of their careers, when we presented NIDDK 60th Anniversary Early Career Investigator/Scholar Awards to 12 scientists from around the country, including five from right on the NIH campus. The awardees also presented their research in a poster session, where they spoke about their work with both senior scientists and peers.
In his keynote address at NIDDK’s 60th anniversary gala, NIH Principal Deputy Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak called nurturing the next generation of scientists “one of the most important things you can do” to foster discovery.
For young researchers, that support – beyond financial – includes mentoring, review, collaboration and myriad helping hands. It’s crucial in helping that next generation to reach their potential – and in helping the millions of people affected by those scientists’ research to reach their own.
NIDDK Director Griffin Rodgers talks science on Oct. 14 with students from Woodrow Wilson High School and the University of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C., as part of the USA Science & Engineering Festival’s Nifty Fifty science lecture series.
Photo Credit: USA Science & Engineering Festival Nifty Fifty Program
|In good health, |
Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P.
Director, National Institute of Diabetes
and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Editor’s Note: For more on the anniversary symposium and gala, see the NIH Record article at http://nihrecord.od.nih.gov/newsletters/2010/10_29_2010/story3.htm.
||The bacterium, Enterococcus faecalis, which lives in the human gut, is just one type of microbe that will be studied as part of NIH's Human Microbiome Project. |
Courtesy: United States Department of Agriculture
Most human bodies have more microbial cells than human cells but, until recently, scientists had few ways to study the microbiome outside of growing a select few types of microbes in test tubes. But our ability to enter the micro-world has expanded, along with the possibilities for medical breakthroughs.
“DNA sequencing technology has advanced and is continuing to advance very rapidly, so now we can get large parts of the genome sequences of the vast majority of the microbes that live in our intestines,” said Dr. Robert Karp, program director for genetics and genomics in NIDDK’s Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition. “We’re absolutely certain these microbes have an impact on many, many aspects of our health. But until now we’ve had no way of studying the vast majority of them. Now we can get a much more comprehensive picture.”
To take that picture, the NIH Common Fund launched the Human Microbiome Project, which aims to understand the role of microbes in human health and disease.
To that end, NIDDK will be overseeing four grants to study the microbiome.
Dr. James Versalovic of Baylor College of Medicine will examine pediatric irritable bowel syndrome and recurrent abdominal pain by sampling the intestinal microbiome. The causes of these diseases are unknown. “One hypothesis that we haven’t been able to test very effectively until now is that the intestinal microbiome is involved,” Karp said.
Dr. Vincent Young of the University of Michigan will work to determine the cause of a condition called pouchitis. Patients suffering from severe ulcerative colitis are often treated by surgical removal of the colon. Surgeons then create a new rectum for the patient by constructing a pouch from part of the small intestine. Unfortunately, that pouch frequently becomes inflamed, typically requiring further surgery. By studying the microbiome in patients before and after the procedure, in parallel with the development of inflammation – and by comparing the microbiome in patients who develop pouchitis and those who do not– the researchers hope to determine whether the microbiome plays a role in causing this disease.
With a grant co-funded by the Common Fund, NIDDK and the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, Dr. Gary Wu of the University of Pennsylvania will be examining the relationship between the intestinal microbiome and diet in youth who have Crohn’s Disease. He’ll study incoming patients and aims to learn why treatment with an elemental diet of liquid nutrients manages some – but not all – cases.
Dr. Claire Fraser-Liggett of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, will be examining the relationship between Crohn’s disease, the intestinal microbiome and bacterial proteins, comparing samples from patients with Crohn’s disease of varying presentation and severity. Her research is co-funded by the Common Fund, NIDDK and the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Karp said there’s room for new microbiome-related proposals in many areas of interest to NIDDK. “Certainly into the near future, I expect to see a huge expansion in the research in this area, simply because it’s so unexplored,” he said. “There are just lots of opportunities.”
An intensive lifestyle intervention program to achieve and maintain weight loss improves diabetes control and cardiovascular disease risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes, according to results of the Look AHEAD study, funded by the NIDDK and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The results are in the Sept. 27, 2010, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Using high-resolution microscopy, researchers have shown how insulin prompts fat cells to take in glucose in a rat model. The findings were reported in the Sept. 8 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.
As the dozen-plus events surrounding the anniversary wind to a close, reflect on the science and the memories through materials like NIDDK: 60 Years of Advancing Research to Improve Health, which includes decades of intramural and extramural advances (www2.niddk.nih.gov/AboutNIDDK/ReportsAndStrategicPlanning/SixtiethAnniversary), and the image gallery, with dozens of photos from the year’s special events (www.gallery.60thanniversary.niddk.nih.gov).
“Click the above photo to see a gallery of pictures from the
NIDDK 60th Anniversary Scientific Symposium.”
|Three former NIDDK directors join current Director |
Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers (second from left) at the Institute’s
60th anniversary symposium, “Unlocking the Secrets of
Science: Building the Foundation for Future Advances,”
held Sept. 21 at the NIH Natcher Conference Center in
Bethesda. At left, former directors Dr. Lester B. Salans,
now a professor at Mount Sinai Medical School and
director of Forest Laboratories; second from right,
Dr. Phillip Gorden, now an NIDDK intramural researcher
and; at right, Dr. Allen M. Spiegel, dean of the Albert
Einstein College of Medicine.
Photo Credit: Ernie Branson/NIH Medical Arts
For more on the 60th anniversary and related events, to watch an anniversary video or get a slide or label for a research presentation or poster, go to www2.niddk.nih.gov/60thAnniversary.htm.
|Dr. Kristina Rother, a senior clinical investigator in NIDDK’s intramural Clinical Endocrine Section, and Scott Schmidt, who participated in one of her clinical trials, talk about what it’s like for youth who live with type 1 diabetes and areas where research advances are necessary while at a meeting with staff from NIDDK and from the U.S. Senate on Oct. 12 on the NIH campus in Bethesda.
On Oct. 12, at the request of the Senate Finance Committee, four Senate staffers visited the NIH in Bethesda for a briefing on scientific advances and opportunities in type 1 diabetes research. The briefing focused on work supported nationwide by the Special Statutory Funding Program for Type 1 Diabetes Research (Special Diabetes Program), a program administered by NIDDK.
NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers began the program by giving an overview of diabetes research at the NIH and discussing how the Special Diabetes Program has enabled investment in research that has benefited people with type 1 diabetes as well as those with other diseases. “This NIH-wide partnership, which also extends outside of NIH to the CDC, has turned out to be an effective and productive approach to solving problems in diabetes by enabling us to develop and carry out novel and creative basic and clinical research programs,” he said.
Dr. Judith Fradkin, director of NIDDK’s Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases, provided examples of type 1 diabetes research supported by the Special Diabetes Program, as well as future opportunities that have stemmed from the research.
The staffers also heard from several scientists conducting type 1 diabetes research with support from the Special Diabetes Program. Dr. Bruce Buckingham, professor of pediatrics and an investigator for the Diabetes Research in Children Network and Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, discussed a collaborative multi-center clinical trial evaluating continuous glucose sensors in children.
Dr. Kevan Herold, professor of immunology and medicine and director of the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet Center at Yale University School of Medicine, discussed his research on immune modulation to prevent and reverse type 1 diabetes. Dr. Neil Bressler, professor of ophthalmology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chair of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (DRCR.net), discussed positive results from a recent network clinical trial testing a new therapy for diabetic eye disease.
Beyond the talks, the staffers toured the lab of Dr. Kristin Tarbell, chief of the NIDDK’s intramural Immune Tolerance Section in the Diabetes Branch, and learned about her research using dendritic cells to develop immune therapies for type 1 diabetes.
They also heard from Dr. Kristina Rother, a senior clinical investigator in NIDDK’s intramural Clinical Endocrine Section, and from one of her patients, 17-year-old Scott Schmidt, who has had type 1 diabetes since age 7.
At the Clinical Research Center, Scott had been involved in a trial investigating oral recombinant interferon alpha to prolong the “honeymoon period” for people who recently developed type 1 diabetes mellitus, a phase in which the insulin need becomes minimal and glycemic control improves, but only as long as this period lasts. Results of this study showed some positive effect of interferon alpha on insulin secretion, but the ultimate goal of achieving insulin independence is still far away.
Scott told the attendees how difficult it had been to manage the highs and lows of his blood glucose. His mother, Marisa Schmidt, told of the difficulties of finding consistent means to regulate that glucose.
Rother told Scott and the audience that the hope, with research, is for him and others to have an easier time in the future, for the “peaks and valleys” of glucose levels – as Scott called them – to be better regulated and easier to manage.
Alan Schmidt hopes his son’s participation in NIH research, and his presence at the table speaking to the congressional staff, help others with type 1 diabetes. “Things like this, it gives us hope,” he said. “It really does.”
Kidney Disease Research Takes Center Stage at Workshop
NIDDK’s Oct. 18-19 workshop, “Translating Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Research into Improved Clinical Outcomes,” focused on type 2 translational research, which has the goal of identifying factors that lead to adoption and maintenance of interventions at the practice level. For more information and a summary of the workshop, go to www3.niddk.nih.gov/fund/other/conferences.shtml.
An associated funding initiative, “Planning Grants for Translating Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Research into Improved Clinical Outcomes (R34),” encourages applications to test the effectiveness of interventions that could be adopted and sustained in a range of settings. For more information, go to http://www2.niddk.nih.gov/Research/ScientificAreas/Kidney/ and click “Highlighted Opportunities in Kidney Diseases Research.”
National Diabetes Awareness Month Efforts Focus on Family Health History
Last month, in observance of National Diabetes Awareness Month, the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) – an initiative of the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – promoted awareness and prevention messages focusing on family health history and gestational diabetes.
Many people with type 2 diabetes have one or more family members with the disease. The NDEP, through its network of more than 200 partners and media outreach, used the Awareness Month to encourage families to talk about their family’s history of diabetes.
While a family’s health history is unchangeable, knowing about it and taking action – with the help of health care providers –can change the future.
At family gatherings this holiday season, consider talking about diabetes. Here are some questions to help start that conversation:
- Does anyone in the family have type 2 diabetes?
- Has anyone in the family been told they might get diabetes?
- Has anyone in the family been told they need to lose weight or increase their physical activity to prevent type 2 diabetes?
- Did your mother get gestational diabetes?
To learn more about family health history and preventing type 2 diabetes, visit, www.ndep.nih.gov/familyhistory.
The NIH Obesity Research Task Force is developing an updated Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research, which will serve as a guide to accelerate a broad spectrum of research on obesity. The task force is co-chaired by NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, along with the NHLBI and NICHD directors. The task force received input from scientists, professional and other health-focused associations, and other groups and individuals. Currently, the task force is revising the draft strategic plan based on input received during a public comment period. The final version will be posted on the NIH website.
A strategic plan for diabetes research is also underway. Under the auspices of the statutory Diabetes Mellitus Interagency Coordinating Committee (DMICC), chaired by NIDDK, the institute has spearheaded the development of Advances and Emerging Opportunities in Diabetes Research: A Strategic Planning Report of the DMICC. Council members, researchers, voluntary group advocates, professional societies and members of the public have contributed to the plan, which will guide federally supported diabetes research over the next decade. The plan is nearing completion and will be posted on the NIDDK website.
As of Sept. 30, 2010, the NIH has completely obligated the $10.4 billion received under the Recovery Act, including $445 million received by NIDDK.
Congratulations to …
||Dr. G. Marius Clore, chief of the Protein Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Section in the Laboratory of Chemical Physics, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in October. Inductees were honored for cutting-edge research and scholarship, artistic accomplishment and exemplary service to society.|
||Dr. William Eaton, chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Physics, received the John Scott Award – given to people who have made an outstanding contribution to the welfare of mankind – for his part in the discovery of the microscopic basics for the aggregation of sickle cell hemoglobin, enabling new treatments for sickle cell disease. |
Longtime NIDDK grantee Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, an investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Rockefeller University, and former grantee Dr. Douglas Coleman of The Jackson Laboratory won the 2010 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for the discovery of the hormone leptin.
Two NIDDK grantees received the 2010 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honors bestowed by the U.S. government to scientists and engineers beginning independent careers. The grantees are: Dr. Muneesh Tewari, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and oncologist and researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and Dr. Martin Zanni, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
||Dr. Van S. Hubbard, was the 2010 recipient of The Obesity Society’s Mickey Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award, given for contributions to the field of obesity through education, mentorship and scholarship. Hubbard is NIDDK associate director for nutritional sciences and director of the NIH Division of Nutrition Research Coordination. |
Twelve researchers were honored with NIDDK 60th Anniversary Early Career Investigator/Scholar Awards. Intramural awardees are: Dr. Daniel Appella, Dr. Susan Buchanan, Dr. Orna Cohen-Fix, Dr. Alexandra McPherron, and Dr. Kristin V. Tarbell. Other awardees are: Dr. Ajay Chawla of Stanford School of Medicine, Dr. Martin T. Zanni of the University of Wisconsin Department of Chemistry, Dr. Clara Abraham of Yale University Section of Digestive Diseases, Dr. Karen Guillemin at the University of Oregon Institute of Molecular Biology, Dr. Mattias H. Tschöp of the University of Cincinnati Metabolic Diseases Institute, Dr. Laura M. Calvi of the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Dr. Jeremy S. Duffield of the University of Washington in Seattle.
NIDDK staff received NIH Director’s Awards in 2010 for exemplary performance. Awardees are: Dr. Kristin M. Abraham, Dr. Olivier Blondel, Dr. Van S. Hubbard, Dr. Christine M. Hunter, Dr. Jeffrey B. Kopp, Dr. Sheryl M. Sato and Dr. Philip F. Smith. More information about these competitive and prestigious awards is available here: http://hr.od.nih.gov/performance/awards/directorawards.htm.
||NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers and the 12 recipients of the NIDDK 60th Anniversary Early Career Investigator/Scholar Awards share a moment in the spotlight at the NIDDK 60th anniversary scientific symposium on Sept. 21 at the NIH’s Bethesda campus. |
Photo credit: Ernie Branson/ NIH Medical Arts
Please Welcome …
A Fond Farewell to …
||Dr. Ziya Kirkali as a senior scientific officer for clinical and translational research in urologic diseases within the Division of Kidney, Urology, and Hematology Division. He served as a past president of the Urological Research Society and was also former chairman and secretary of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer–Genito Urinary Group. |
Five NIDDK Advisory Council members, who have completed terms: Dr. Mark Magnuson served on the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases Subcouncil; Dr. Charles O. Elson, III, and Dr. Patrick Tso served on the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition Subcouncil; and Dr. William Mitch and Dr. Anthony Schaeffer served on the Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases Subcouncil.
||Dr. Carolyn Miles, director of the Clinical Obesity and Nutrition Program in the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, the program director for the Nutrition Obesity Research Centers, and the project scientist for the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery study, will retire at the end of December 2010. |
||Dr. Ken May, director of GI neuroendocrinology, GI transport and absorption, and nutrient metabolism programs and budget coordinator in the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, will retire in February 2011. |
In Memoriam …
Longtime NIDDK grantee Dr. Christopher Saudek, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Diabetes Center, died in October. He was president of the American Diabetes Association from 2001-2002, a principal investigator in the NIDDK’s Diabetes Prevention Program and a pioneer in developing implantable insulin pumps.
Longtime NIDDK grantee Dr. Steven Elbein, a professor of internal medicine and chief of the Section on Endocrinology and Metabolism at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, died in June. His work on polymorphisms that contribute to the risk of diabetes furthered understanding in the areas of pathophysiology and genetic susceptibility to the disease. Dr. Elbein was a member of the Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases B study section from 2003 to 2007 and then chair of the study section for two years.
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Page last updated: November 30, 2010