Associate Professor Jena J. Steinle of The University of Tennessee Health Science Center Receives $1.38 Million Grant for Diabetic Medication Research

Jena SteinleMemphis, Tenn. (June 12, 2013) – One of the most common side effects of diabetes is retinal damage.  While we know that diabetic medications are effective in reducing insulin resistance in humans overall, we do not know their actions in the retina.  The National Eye Institute, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded $1,387,500 to Jena J. Steinle, PhD, who wants to learn more about how diabetic medication affects the retina.  Dr. Steinle, an associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), will use the award to fund her research study titled, “Mechanisms of TNFalpha-Induced Insulin Resistance in Retinal Cells.”

“increased understanding of the actions in the retina of these commonly used drugs for Type 2 diabetes may help us optimize their effectiveness against diabetic retinopathy, the ocular complication of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.”

The study aims to investigate the potential pathways in the retina that are activated by commonly used Type 2 diabetic medications.  Previous work in her laboratory has shown that these drugs can work to decrease inflammatory pathways in the retinal blood vessels, which is protective to the retina.  According to Dr. Steinle, “increased understanding of the actions in the retina of these commonly used drugs for Type 2 diabetes may help us optimize their effectiveness against diabetic retinopathy, the ocular complication of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.  For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

As Tennessee’s only public, statewide academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region, by pursuing an integrated program of education, research, clinical care, and public service.  Offering a broad range of postgraduate and selected baccalaureate training opportunities, the main UTHSC campus is located in Memphis and includes six colleges: Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy.  UTHSC also educates and trains cohorts of medicine, pharmacy and/or allied health students — in addition to medical residents and fellows — at its major sites in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville.  Founded in 1911, during its more than 100 years, UT Health Science Center has educated and trained more than 56,000 health care professionals in academic settings and health care facilities across the state.  For more information, visit www.uthsc.edu.