UTHSC Professor Ivan Gerling Receives $1.5 Million Grant for Type 1 Diabetes Research

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A newly funded NIH grant will allow Dr. Ivan Gerling and his research team to further their studies into the process of Type 1 Diabetes. Their findings could provide a number of new potential drug targets that could stop or reverse the abnormal molecular processes and prevent or cure the disease.
A newly funded NIH grant will allow Dr. Ivan Gerling and his research team to further their studies into the process of Type 1 Diabetes. Their findings could provide a number of new potential drug targets that could stop or reverse the abnormal molecular processes and prevent or cure the disease.

Ivan Gerling, PhD, professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $1,597,704 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health, to study the process of Type 1 Diabetes. The award will be used to support a project titled, “Defining Islet Heterogeneity Using Single Islet Transcriptomics,” and will be distributed over a three-year period. Type 1 Diabetes is the result of a failure of the insulin-producing cells found in structures called islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. It often appears at a young age and requires lifelong insulin injections as a treatment. Even with this therapy, many patients eventually suffer severe complications including kidney disease and blindness. Therefore, it has been a high priority for scientists to find ways to cure or prevent the disease. A critical part of this work is to develop a better understanding of the early stages of the disease by looking at what happens in the islets before a person gets sick. However, it is both difficult and dangerous to take pancreatic islet biopsies from the living. Recently an organization called nPOD (Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes) has created a tissue bank of donated organs from individuals with or at risk of diabetes. This has opened up new opportunities for scientists to study what is different in islets of Langerhans from people who are in the process of developing diabetes. Dr. Gerling and his collaborators have developed new approaches that allow them to use one simple process to gain information on expression of almost all human genes in islets of Langerhans cut out of organ donor tissue from the nPOD tissue bank. This will allow them to collect a detailed “fingerprint” of all the molecular processes that are going wrong at the earliest stages of development of the disease. “This research grant will allow us to make use of progress in technology and available resources, and also gain new insights into the disease process,” said Dr. Gerling. “Those insights could in turn provide a number of new potential drug targets that could stop or reverse the abnormal molecular processes and prevent or cure the disease.” 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.