Feds Spending $2.2 Million to Study Lesbian Obesity | Washington …

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September 5, 2013 11:35 am

The federal government has spent $2.2 million studying why three quarters of lesbians are obese despite sequestration-mandated budget cuts that critics warned could “delay progress in medical breakthroughs.”

The National Institutes of Health awarded an additional $682,873 to Brigham and Women’s Hospital for the study on July 17. The project had received previous grants of $778,622 in 2011, and $741,378 in 2012. Total funding has reached $2,202,873.

The project has survived budget cuts due to sequestration, which the NIH warned would “delay progress in medical breakthroughs.”

The study, being led by S. Bryn Austin, an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, sets out to find the biological and social factors for why “three-quarters” of lesbians are obese and why gay males are not.

At the time this study was first reported, a spokesman for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which is administering the project, said its future was uncertain because of the sequester.

“The NIH is currently assessing the impact on funding due to sequestration,” said Robert Bock, press officer for the NICHD, in March. “It is not possible to say how this (or any other NIH grant) will be affected in the long term beyond the 90 percent funding levels already in place.”

The NIH said the automatic budget cuts forced the agency to cut 5 percent of its fiscal year 2013 budget, amounting to a $1.55 billion reduction in spending.

“NIH must apply the cut evenly across all programs, projects, and activities (PPAs), which are primarily NIH institutes and centers,” the agency said in June. “This means every area of medical research will be affected.”

The NIH said cuts to research are “delaying progress in medical breakthroughs,” including the development of cancer drugs and research on a universal flu vaccine.

The study on disparities between sexual orientation and obesity continues to receive funding.

“Obesity is one of the most critical public health issues affecting the U.S. today,” the grant’s “public health relevance” statement reads. “Racial and socioeconomic disparities in the determinants, distribution, and consequences of obesity are receiving increasing attention; however, one area that is only beginning to be recognized is the striking interplay of gender and sexual orientation in obesity disparities.”

“It is now well-established that women of minority sexual orientation are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic, with nearly three-quarters of adult lesbians overweight or obese, compared to half of heterosexual women,” the project’s abstract states. “In stark contrast, among men, heterosexual males have nearly double the risk of obesity compared to gay males.”

Though Bock declined to comment for this story, the NIH issued a general statement to the Washington Free Beacon defending the study as part of its overall mission to reduce obesity in the United States.

“NIH research addresses the full spectrum of human health across all populations of Americans,” the NIH said. “Research into unhealthy human behaviors that are estimated to be the proximal cause of more than half of the disease burden in the U.S. will continue to be an important area of research supported by NIH.”

“Only by developing effective prevention and treatment strategies for health-injuring behaviors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse, inactivity, and poor diet, can we reduce the disease burden in the U.S. and thus enhance health and lengthen life, which is the mission of the NIH,” they said.

Thus far, the study has yielded one report, published in January, which found that gay and bisexual males had a “greater desire for toned muscles than completely and mostly heterosexual males.”

Endocannabinoids trigger inflammation that leads to diabetes

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For Immediate Release: Monday, August 19, 2013


NIH scientists identify possible treatment target for type 2 diabetes


Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have clarified in rodent and test tube experiments the role that inflammation plays in type 2 diabetes, and revealed a possible molecular target for treating the disease.
The researchers say some natural messenger chemicals in the body are involved in an inflammatory chain that can kill cells in the pancreas, which produces insulin.

A report of the finding appears online in Nature Medicine.

“This study is a significant milestone in an ongoing exploration of the endocannabinoid system’s role in the metabolic complications of obesity,” says Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which led the study.

Endocannabinoids are natural messengers in the body that help regulate many biological functions. They are chemically similar to the active compound in marijuana. Recent studies have tied endocannabinoids to the metabolic problems that lead to diabetes.  Researchers also have recognized that inflammation appears to play an important role in the pathology of diabetes. 

“The identities of the molecular and cellular actors in the inflammatory processes that underlie type 2 diabetes have remained elusive,” explains senior author and NIAAA scientific director George Kunos, M.D., Ph.D.  “Our study connects endocannabinoids to an inflammatory cascade leading to the loss of beta cells in the pancreas, which is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.”

Working with a strain of genetically obese rats that serve as a model for human type 2 diabetes, Dr. Kunos and his colleagues used a combination of pharmacological and genetic tools to show that endocannabinoids trigger receptors on macrophages in the pancreas.  Macrophages are immune system cells, present in all tissues that rid the body of cellular debris and pathogens.

“Like various other peripheral tissues, such as the liver, skeletal muscles, pancreas, and fatty tissue, macrophages have receptors for endocannabinoids,” explains Dr. Kunos.

The researchers demonstrated that endocannabinoid activation of macrophages in the pancreas leads to activation of a protein complex within macrophages called the Nlrp3 inflammasome.  The inflammasome, in turn, releases molecules that cause the death of pancreatic beta cells and the progression of type 2 diabetes in the rats.

“When we treated the rats with compounds that deplete macrophages or block all peripheral cannabinoid receptors, inflammasome activation and type 2 diabetes progression was slowed,” noted Dr. Kunos.

In test tube experiments, the researchers showed that macrophages from humans and mice produced the same inflammasome response when they were incubated with endocannabinoids.  However, mouse macrophages that were genetically altered to lack cannabinoid receptors or inflammasomes generated no such response.

Most notably, the researchers showed that by selectively blocking the expression of cannabinoid receptors on macrophages, they could protect and restore beta cell function in the genetically obese rats, which delayed the development and reduced the severity of their diabetes.

The authors conclude that the findings point to a key role in type 2 diabetes for endocannabinoid-induced inflammasome activation in macrophages, and identify cannabinoid receptors on macrophages as a new therapeutic target.

“To understand type 2 diabetes, a public health threat that affects young and old alike, we need to consider all the factors at play,” said Monica Skarulis, M.D., staff clinician at National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and co-author. “We hope that what we’ve learned from this research will help us develop new strategies to prevent and treat the condition.”

In addition to Dr. Kunos’ team of NIAAA scientists and Dr. Skarulis, co-authors on the study included researchers from the University of Colorado Medical Campus, Aurora, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems. NIAAA also disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications are available at http://www.niaaa.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): 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.

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

Reference

Activation of the Nlrp3 inflammasome in infiltrating macrophages by endocannabinoids mediates beta cell loss in type 2 diabetes. Jourdan, T, et al. Nature Medicine. 2013 August 18. [Epub ahead of print]

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Type 1 diabetes network expands reach with online sign-up, nationwide testing

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For Immediate Release: Monday, May 6, 2013


NIH-funded trial seeks volunteers to help discover ways to delay or prevent T1D


People with a family history of type 1 diabetes can now conveniently participate in free screening to help find ways to delay or prevent the disease, even if they live far from a study site. This alternative to site-based initial screening comes as modern technology enables more secure online registration for medical research.

The screening, consisting of a questionnaire and blood test, is for Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, a National Institutes of Health-funded long-term international collaboration. The collaboration is aimed at discovering ways to delay or prevent type 1diabetes in people at increased risk. TrialNet must screen more than 20,000 relatives of people with type 1 diabetes each year to perform studies to reach its research goals.

Previously, relatives needed to visit a study site or attend a screening event. But now, after answering a few questions online at www.diabetestrialnet.org, eligible volunteers will receive a kit and be directed to a local lab for screening at no cost to the volunteer.

People who have antibodies associated with the development of type 1 diabetes will be contacted by a TrialNet center to review the results. They may be invited to have more blood tests at a study center, and may be invited to join a study aimed at preventing or delaying the disease. Children under 18 years old who do not have the antibodies can be retested annually to see if their risk has changed. Of every 100 people tested, typically only 3 or 4 will have antibodies showing an increased risk for type 1 diabetes.

“By ensuring the safety of people’s personal information while also making it easier to participate in clinical trials, we hope to find more people who are at risk and want to help find ways to delay or prevent type 1 diabetes,” said TrialNet Program Director Ellen Leschek, M.D., of the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which oversees the trial.

Type 1 diabetes, once called juvenile diabetes, develops when the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Insulin, a hormone, is needed to convert glucose (sugar) into energy. People with type 1 diabetes need insulin by daily injections or a pump to survive. However, replacing insulin is not a cure, and the disease may eventually damage the eyes, nerves, kidneys, and blood vessels. In adults, type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 percent of the approximately 19 million people diagnosed with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is not associated with obesity.

Kit with questionnaire and vial for blood test

After volunteers consent online to participate in Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet — a study aimed at discovering ways to delay or prevent type 1 diabetes – they receive a screening kit in the mail, as shown, and will be directed to a local lab for a blood test at no cost to the volunteer. Courtesy of University of South Florida.

TrialNet studies have already helped. People at risk for type 1 diabetes who participated in TrialNet’s Pathway to Prevention Study were more likely to be diagnosed early.

“For people with type 1 diabetes, the importance of early diagnosis cannot be overstated,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. “Early diagnosis means people are less likely to develop diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition. Early diagnosis also means people can often control their diabetes more quickly, which may slow the loss of insulin-producing cells and may delay complications.”

Launched in 2001, TrialNet has also demonstrated that two drugs, Rituximab and Abatacept, slow the loss of insulin production in people with new-onset type 1 diabetes. This finding could improve diabetes control and delay complications. TrialNet has also contributed to research showing that anti-CD3, an immunosuppressive drug, can slow loss of insulin production. Three prevention studies are ongoing.

TrialNet (NCT00097292) is a network of 18 clinical centers working in cooperation with more than 200 sites throughout the United States, Canada, Finland, Britain, Italy, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. TrialNet is funded by NIDDK and other NIH components, including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, as well as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and American Diabetes Association.

For more information on diabetes, including type 1, visit http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov.

The NIDDK, a component of the NIH, conducts and supports research on diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the most common, severe and disabling conditions affecting Americans. For more information about the NIDDK and its programs, see http://www.niddk.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): 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.

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

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