American Diabetes Association Supports FOEDRC Researchers

Three researchers from the FOEDRC received new grants from the American Diabetes Association for groundbreaking research. The ability of our members to receive these competitive awards is truly remarkable and underscores the quality and rigor of the research that is being conducted in the FOEDRC. There are few institutions that received multiple awards in this current round of ADA funding.  The awards to Drs. Ling Yang, Rajan Sah and Adam Rauckhorst are summarized below.

Ling Yang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology and member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center was recently awarded a Research Grant from the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The project entitled: Mechanisms underlying nitrosylation-mediated dysregulation of hepatic autophagy in obesity will be supported by the $345,000 award over the next three years. Dr. Yang’s laboratory made the observation that a fundamental cellular process known as autophagy is dysregulated in the livers of animals with obesity and insulin resistance. Autophagy is a process by which cells recycle damaged structures and organelles and if this process is perturbed, then tissue damage is increased. Of note, the discovery of autophagy by Yoshinori Ohsumi from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, earned him the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2016. Specifically, Dr. Yang has discovered that an enzyme known as inducible nitric oxide synthase is activated in obesity and insulin resistant states leading to overproduction of nitric oxide, which damages proteins involved in autophagy by increasing their incorporation of a nitric oxide derivative known as S-nitrosylation. Dr. Yang will study if increasing the activity of enzyme S-nitrosoglutathione reductase (GSNOR) which removes these nitric oxide modifications on autophagy proteins, will lead to improvement of insulin resistance and prevent other complications of diabetes such as fatty liver disease. 

Rajan Sah, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine (Cardiology) and member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center was recently awarded a Research Grant from the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The project entitled: SWELL1 regulation of ß-cell excitability and insulin secretion will be supported by the $345,000 award over the next three years. Dr. Sah’s laboratory discovered that a protein SWELL1 regulates the electrical activity on the surface membranes of pancreatic beta cells that is critical for insulin release. The studies will test the hypothesis that SWELL1-mediates a swell-activated excitatory chloride current that potentiates insulin release in response to physiological changes in extracellular glucose. Dr. Sah will conduct studies in cultured pancreatic beta cells and in mice in which the levels of SWELL1 in beta cells are manipulated. These studies of SWELL1 may provide a new pharmacological target for the treatment of diabetes, by complementing other groups of drugs such as sulfonylurea receptor inhibitors such as glipizide or glyburide, which are currently used in clinical practice.

Adam Rauckhorst, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Taylor in the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center was recently awarded a postdoctoral research fellowship from the American Diabetes Association. The project entitled: Regulation of hepatic glucose metabolism by a candidate mitochondrial glutamine carrier, will be supported for the next three years by the $179,722 award. Postdoctoral fellowships provide essential salary support for trainees, relieving the laboratory’s resources to support the cost of experiments. Dr. Rauckhorst’s project examines the regulation of glucose production by the liver, which is increased in diabetes and contributes to hyperglycemia. Specifically, Dr. Rauckhorst and Taylor discovered a mitochondrial protein, which may specifically transport the metabolic intermediate glutamine. Liver cells in which levels of this protein is reduced, may have lower rates of liver glucose production. As such these studies may identify a new pathway by which excessive liver production of glucose could be modified by therapeutic agents or drugs that reduce the activity of this putative glutamine transporter.

Congratulations to Dr. Yang and Dr. Sah for these outstanding achievements. Kudos to Dr. Taylor for his mentorship and congratulations to Adam for this tremendous recognition.