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Recent Awards and Honors

Joshua Thaler, MD, PhD, received a Pathway Accelerator Award from the American Diabetes Association for his basic research project entitled, “Modulating Glial-Neuronal Interactions to Treat Obesity and Diabetes.” This is the first round of grants funded as part of the ADA’s new initiative, Pathway to Stop Diabetes, which aims to fund 100 new diabetes researchers over the next decade. Steven Kahn, MB, ChB, is the recipient of the 2013 John B. Barnwell Award. This award is the highest honor for outstanding achievement in clinical research by the Veterans Health Administration and Clinical Science Research & Development Services. Karin BornfeldtPhD, was awarded the 2013 Russell Ross Memorial Lectureship in Vascular Biology. Alan Chait, MD, Head of the Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition, has been selected as the 2013 Western Society of Clinical Investigation (WSCI) Mayo Soley Award winner. The Mayo Soley award is given to a “senior investigator in recognition of lifetime achievement in the area of scientific endeavor and training of junior investigators.”  Dr. Chait came to the University of Washington as a fellow in 1975, joined the faculty in 1977 and has been a professor since 1985 and head of the division since 1996.  He is an accomplished clinician and researcher, and has received many awards over the years, including the R.H. Williams/Rachmiel Levine Award for outstanding mentorship in 2002.  He has had 32 mentees who have achieved high levels of academic and professional success.

Basic Research

Basic research at the Center focuses on the multiple aspects underlying the pathogenesis of obesity and diabetes. The regulation of body weight involves hormones, such as ghrelin, leptin and insulin that act upon neurocircuits in the hypothalamus and other brain areas. Our studies have helped to develop and test the hypothesis that defects in the central nervous system (CNS) may unbalance the homeostasis of both energy balance and glucose metabolism and thus favor the progression of obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Clinical consequences of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and their link to cardiovascular disease are also being investigated, with special emphasis on how these diseases affect the metabolism of cholesterol and lipoproteins, and how they disrupt cellular functions of macrophages and endothelial cells. The Center also aims to understand how the insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cell works and how its function is impaired in diabetes, and to identify autoimmune markers and mediators of type 1 diabetes.

Translational Research

The cure of any disease depends on a fundamental understanding of its causes. Only by identifying the elements involved in the initiation and progression of a disease can a cure be found.  An excellent example is cell-based therapy to treat diabetes. The goal is the implantation of insulin-producing cells to permit insulin delivery for type 1 diabetes patients without the need of immunosuppression. The successful implementation of this therapeutic approach requires application of a truly multidisciplinary approach involving stem cell biology, developmental, cellular and molecular biology of the pancreatic beta cell, immunology, and transplantation biology. We are building this comprehensive expertise at the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence. Other areas of translational focus include study into the mechanisms whereby bariatric surgical procedures ameliorate diabetes, development of diagnostic testing to predict future development of type 1 diabetes, and the use of proteomic analysis of lipoproteins to gauge risk of heart attack.

Research Centers