April 5, 2012

Diabetes research at VU bolstered by federal grant

by Bill Snyder

The Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center (DRTC), the nation’s oldest federally funded diabetes research center, has competed successfully for renewal of its grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Now in its 39th year of continuous operation, the DRTC will receive $7.8 million for direct and indirect costs over the next five years to support efforts to discover, apply and translate scientific knowledge about diabetes, obesity and metabolism, and ultimately improve the lives of people with diabetes.

The center encompasses 125 Vanderbilt faculty members in 15 departments and three schools who conduct a broad range of basic, clinical and translational research, from cell-based studies to investigations in human communities, said center director Alvin Powers, M.D., Joe C. Davis Chair in Biomedical Science.

Research areas include: in vivo metabolic regulation and obesity; islet development, biology and immunology (type 1 diabetes); complications related to diabetes; cell signaling and oxidative stress; clinical trials and epidemiology.

“Because of the environment it creates, the DRTC and its investigators continue to make important scientific contributions related to diabetes and obesity,” Powers said.

“The successful renewal of the DRTC reflects our outstanding and diverse base of investigators, the extremely strong support of the institution for diabetes research, and the strength of the research environment at Vanderbilt.”

Powers also directs the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, which oversees and coordinates Vanderbilt’s diabetes research, training and clinical programs, including the DRTC and the Vanderbilt Eskind Diabetes Clinic.

Associate DRTC directors are Owen McGuinness, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, and Roger Cone, Ph.D., professor and chair of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics.

The DRTC includes a biomedical research component, directed by Richard O’Brien, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, which promotes interactive and collaborative studies.

A pilot and feasibility program, directed by Roland Stein, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, helps new investigators develop into fully independent scientists.

Maureen Gannon, Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine, directs an enrichment, training and outreach program that creates a scientific environment or “home” through its weekly seminar series and annual Diabetes Day.

DRTC-supported research cores, which are part of Vanderbilt’s Institutional Shared Resources, include:

• The Cell Imaging Shared Resource, co-directed by Sam Wells, Ph.D., research professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, W. Gray Jerome, Ph.D., associate professor of Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology, and David Piston, Ph.D., the Louise B. McGavock Chair and professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics;

• The Hormone Assay & Analytical Services Core, directed by Alan Cherrington, Ph.D., the Jacquelyn A. Turner and Dr. Dorothy J. Turner Chair in Diabetes Research, with co-directors Larry Swift, Ph.D., professor of Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology, and Ginger Milne, Ph.D., research associate professor of Medicine;

• The Transgenic and ES Cell Shared Resource, directed by Mark Magnuson, M.D., professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics;

• The Islet Procurement & Analysis Core, directed by Marcela Brissova, Ph.D., research assistant professor of Medicine; and

• The Metabolic Physiology Shared Resource, directed by David Wasserman, Ph.D., the Annie Mary Lyle Chair and professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics.