Why I Am A Diabetes Researcher

With our 75th Scientific Sessions right around the corner (speaking of, we hope to see you there, or you can follow #2015ADA!), we’re taking time to mark the occasion with our new “Why I am a diabetes researcher” series.

Over the next couple of days, we’ll hear from four diabetes researchers across a variety of different fields, with a variety of different backgrounds. Join us as they share their journeys and insights into the past, present and future of diabetes research.

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Bernal-Mizrachi with Margarita Jimenez-Palomares

Bernal-Mizrachi with Margarita Jimenez-Palomares

Dr. Ernesto Bernal-Mizrachi is from Colombia, where he earned his undergraduate and medical degrees. He did his residency at the University of Miami and Fellowship in Endocrinology and Metabolism at Washington University in St. Louis. He is currently Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Michigan and Staff Physician at the VA Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Here, he explains his commitment to diabetes:

“Diabetes mellitus is one of the most prevalent conditions affecting human health in the 21st century. Defects in insulin producing cells at different levels are central to develop this diabetes. My laboratory has been studying the signaling pathways that regulate how insulin producing cells grow and die and how they adapt to diabetogenic conditions. It is our expectation that understanding the mechanisms involved in these processes will result in generation of novel pharmacological agents and new strategies to prevent, treat and cure diabetes.

“As a physician scientist, my experience in clinical and basic research provides a unique privilege and opportunity to extend the observations generated in the laboratory to patient care. Therefore the outcome of the work in my laboratory will benefit a substantial fraction of the population.”

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Dr. Shannon WalletDr. Shannon Wallet earned her bachelor’s degree in medical technology at North Carolina State University, her MT (ASCP) at Duke University and her PhD in oral biology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and is currently Associate Professor at the University of Florida, Department of Oral Biology.

Here, she explains her commitment to diabetes:

“People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes experience complications due to the effect these diseases have on the immune system. Periodontal diseases and infections of the gum tissue, are such complications. People with diabetes tend to have more severe and longer lasting periodontal disease than people who do not have diabetes. Furthermore, people with diabetes who also have periodontitis experience  more complications than those without periodontitis and treatment of periodontitis can improve control of blood sugar. Thus, finding a treatment for periodontitis that is specific for patients with diabetes is imperative for the periodontal health as well as overall long term health. 

“We strive to determine how people with diabetes respond to periodontal disease compared to individuals who do not have diabetes. Discoveries from our research will elucidate mechanisms of periodontal disease pathology among people with diabetes and will provide information necessary for the development of appropriate diagnostic, vaccine and/or therapeutic applications in the treatment of periodontal disease in people with diabetes. Implementation of these findings will ultimately result in better glycemic control and quality of life for the patient with diabetes.

“I have been involved in type 1 or type 2 diabetes research for the past 14 years, and I have always marveled and the complexity of these diseases. People living with diabetes are also living with a multitude of secondary complications. Effective therapies for diabetes-associated periodontal disease will not only reduce suffering but also improve the overall prognosis and long-term morbidity of diabetes. I am driven by the goal of improving the quality of life for these individuals until a cure for diabetes becomes a reality. 

“Diabetes research has made excellent strides in many areas including prevention and treatment through investigations of genetics, cell biology, immunology, education and behavior modification. Diabetes is not one disease. It is a family of complex multi-factorial disease processes and the future of diabetes research should reflect this knowledge. I envision a more systemic approach to diabetes research and therapies in the future. It is critical that scientists and clinicians understand the impact of diabetes complications upon patient health and society as a whole. These complications not only exacerbate metabolic defects but also present a massive burden upon the health care system.”

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