FOEDRC Investigators Continue to Excel in Research

This month I feature two additional grant awards that have been received by faculty members in the FOEDRC.

Dr. Lira Vitor, Assistant Professor in Health and Human Physiology and member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Center and the Obesity Research and Education Initiative at the University of Iowa, received an American Heart Association (AHA) Scientist Development Grant.  This 3-year $308,000 award is for a project entitled, Molecular insights into the exercise-mediated protection against diabetic cardiomyopathy. 

Dr. Lira’s Lab will study an important mechanism for heart failure in diabetes called diabetic cardiomyopathy. This condition, affects more than 40% of patients with type 2 diabetes, leads to heart failure and lacks effective therapy. Exercise protects the diabetic heart, at least in part, by stimulating the pathway of autophagy, which degrades malfunctioning proteins and cellular structures. The goal of this project is to elucidate the role of the protein kinases ULK1/2 and the transcription factor ATF4 in the exercise-mediated regulation of cardiac autophagy in obesity and type 2 diabetes. Determining the molecular regulation of cardiac autophagy by exercise in obesity and type 2 diabetes, might reveal alternative targets for therapy.

Second, Dr. Andrew Norris, the Associate Director of the FOEDRC and Associate Professor of Pediatrics was recently awarded a $1.9M grant from the National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health. The proposal entitled Splanchno-Hormonal Mechanisms of Cystic Fibrosis Related Diabetes seeks to elucidate a novel mechanism that may explain the increased risk for diabetes in individuals affected by cystic fibrosis. Specifically, Dr. Norris has identified that a hormone called pancreatic polypeptide may play a pivotal role.

For unclear reasons most people who have cystic fibrosis will develop diabetes by middle age, placing them at much higher risk of lung failure and death. Studies in Dr. Norris’ laboratory showed that low levels of a hormone called pancreatic polypeptide (PP) raises diabetes risk in patients with cystic fibrosis. The proposed study aims to understand why PP is low in cystic fibrosis and to apply this knowledge to develop new therapies for diabetes in cystic fibrosis patients.  PP-based therapies may have potential to treat other types of diabetes as well.

The FOEDRC is very proud of the achievements of our outstanding faculty.