NIH Renews CNRC's Core Grant
The National Institutes of Health recently renewed the
UAB Clinical Nutrition Research Center’s core grant, which
underwrites the CNRC’s research on nutrition and obesity.
The renewal rewarded several months of hard work on the
grant proposal. The grant enables the center to provide seed
money for researchers to explore areas outside their normal
The CNRC, funded by the NIH and UAB’s intramural,
universitywide interdisciplinary research center program, has
more than 100 appointed faculty representing more than eight
schools at UAB, says director David Allison, Ph.D. “We’ve got
a terrific crew of people here at UAB who are attacking nutrition
issues from many different angles,” Allison says. “The core
grant is a catalyst for us; it’s a way of bringing people together,
continuing research, and getting new research started.”
The purpose of the center is to foster a multidisciplinary
approach to basic, clinical, and translational research examining
the metabolic, environmental, and genetic factors underlying
nutrition and obesity-related disorders; the consequences
of these disorders; and better methods for treatment and
The CNRC is one of only eight such centers in the nation.
It is made up of four research core facilities, a pilot and feasibility
studies program, and an enrichment program. The core
facilities support research in metabolics, gene expression, polymorphism
detection, energy expenditure and body composition,
and design and data analysis and methodologic research
in optimal design of clinical trials for obesity.
The pilot and feasibility studies program supports up to five
studies and a new named investigator each year.
The enrichment program coordinates the CNRC Seminar
Series, an annual symposium, and the center’s Web site.
Grant Establishes Diabetes Research and Training Center at UAB
Timothy Garvey, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences in the UAB School of Health Professions, recently received a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to establish a Diabetes Research and Training Center (DRTC) at UAB.
The facility will be one of only six in the nation. The overall goal of the center is to promote excellence in diabetes research, with the ultimate objective being to decrease morbidity/mortality and increase quality of life for diabetes patients.
“We plan to launch a pilot and feasibility program that will augment diabetes research and will emphasize innovation, translation, and career development of our junior investigators,” Garvey says. “Through this, we plan to develop and evaluate new models of diabetes patient care that incorporate multi-disciplinary health care teams to improve patient outcomes, provide venues for clinical training, and create laboratories for translational and health services delivery research.”
With support from the university and the community, Garvey says, the center could become the pre-eminent center for diabetes research in the region—a distinction that becomes more important considering the prevalence of diabetes in the South.
In addition to the six Diabetes Research and Training Centers, the NIDDK also funds several Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Centers at sites across the nation. Those centers, however, do not have the prevention and control component found in the DRTCs.
UAB Research Targets Genes Linked to Insulin Resistance
A team of researchers led by Timothy Garvey, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences, has identified two genes that may play a role in insulin resistance. This research could open a new avenue for researchers searching for treatments for type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In findings published this fall in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the team found that two genes, NR4A3 and NR4A1, seem to boost insulin sensitivity in muscle tissue.
Insulin lowers blood glucose, or sugar, by moving it from the bloodstream into skeletal muscle, where it is metabolized for energy or stored for later use. Type-2 diabetes results from either a shortage of insulin or from desensitized muscle that does not respond well to insulin, allowing elevated glucose levels to remain in the bloodstream. This latter defect is called insulin resistance.
“Our findings show that these two proteins help sensitize muscle to insulin, promoting glucose uptake and thus keeping glucose levels within healthy limits,” says Garvey. “This gives science a new target for diabetes research by suggesting new pathways for drug development that will help boost the presence or activity of NR4A3 and NR4A1.”
Garvey and colleague Yuchang Fu, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition sciences, also found that both genes were underexpressed in animal models with diabetes, leading to increased insulin resistance.
“In simple terms, the abundant presence of these proteins in the body is a positive factor for avoiding diabetes, while their absence is associated with increased incidence of the disease,” Garvey says. “By better understanding the biologic underpinnings of the disease, we can begin to find novel therapeutic targets to decrease insulin resistance.”
Garvey says the next step will be a methodical search of promising molecules that may interact with and promote the presence of NR4A3 and NR4A1.
There are more than 20 million Americans living with diabetes, 7 percent of the population.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of diabetes is likely to increase due to the aging U.S. population and to the prevalence of obesity in America, both of which are risk factors for diabetes. According to recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes will affect one in three people born in 2000 in the United States. The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is expected to increase 165 percent by 2050. Diabetes is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in America.
SHP Forms Committee to Lead the School's First Diversity Initiative
The School of Health Professions recently created a committee as part of the school’s diversity initiative. The committee is chaired by Jose Fernandez. Also serving on the committee are Donna Slovensky, Andrea Siler Goolsby, Audrey Harris, Carolyn Sherer, Jan Rowe, Pam Smith, Shannon Houser, and SHP student Nicholas Buckner.
“The initiative has four primary goals,” says Fernandez. “We want to identify the diversity needs of the school in order to create an environment of inclusiveness and respect among students, staff, and faculty, regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender. This will build the foundation for our third goal, which is to increase the recruitment and retention of individuals of diverse backgrounds as part of our student and working force. Finally, our fourth goal would be to facilitate the implementation of UAB’s conclusive diversity initiatives and mandates.”