There remains much to learn about endocrinology, and most of the conditions we treat do not have definitive cures. To help advance the field, the faculty in our Division direct endocrinology-focused research ranging from laboratory biomedical science to clinical studies. Here we report some of our noteworthy progress.
“With the advent of techniques to strengthen brain regions, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, it is possible that this type of research will help delineate important future interventions.” –Andrew Norris
Dr. Tansey and collaborators across the country have been studying brain function in children with and without type 1 diabetes. In a study published today (link) in the prestigious journal Diabetes, they report important differences between these two groups. They used functional magnetic imaging resonance (fMRI) to measure activation in various brain locations while the children were given memory tasks. Compared to children without diabetes, those with type 1 diabetes exhibited decreased memory performance relative to children without diabetes. Interestingly the children with type 1 diabetes showed greater increases in brain activation with harder tasks than those without diabetes, suggesting that their brains were working harder to compensate. More research is needed to understand how these effects of diabetes occur and how they might be modulated. With the recent advent of techniques to strengthen brain regions, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, it is possible that this type of research will help delineate important future interventions. Also involved in the study from our Division were Dr. Tsalikian, Julie Coffey, Joanne Cabbage, Sara Salamati, and Rachel Bisbee.
There appears to be an increased risk of developing diabetes for persons with Turner syndrome. The exact reasons for this are enigmatic, as there have been very few studies. This lack of knowledge makes it difficult to know how best to screen for and help prevent diabetes in this population. To help address this, pediatric endocrine fellow Dr. Pinnaro has initiated a study of blood levels levels in persons with Turner syndrome who do not have diabetes. The initial results from this study suggest a greater degree of atypical glucose levels in those with Turner syndrome as compared to controls. This past weekend, Dr. Pinnaro would have presented these initial results at the national Pediatric Endocrine Society meeting in Texas (cancelled due to COVID-19). Her faculty mentors for this study were Drs. Katie Larson Ode and Andrew Norris.
Dr. Katie Larson Ode has been named director of the Clinical Core component of the University of Iowa’s Center for Gene Therapy of Cystic Fibrosis. The NIH grant funding for this project was just renewed. Her core will support maintenance and growth of a Cystic Fibrosis biobank which will obtain/provide clinical samples from/to researchers in cystic fibrosis for translational projects. Congratulations to Dr. Larson Ode on your excellent work.
“with the advent of techniques to strengthen brain regions, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, might this type of research help guide possible interventions?” –Andrew Norris
Dr. Tsalikian and collaborators across the country have been studying brain cognitive function in children with and without type 1 diabetes. In a study just published in PLOS Medicine, they report interesting differences. They used functional magnetic imaging resonance (fMRI) to measure activation in various brain locations while the children were given tasks. Compared to children without diabetes, those with type 1 diabetes exhibited two differences. One of the observed changes was impaired control of a region towards the back of the brain and this impairment typically leads to diminished task performance. In contrast, there was enhanced activation of a region towards the front of the brain involved in executive control. It appears that these two changes balanced each other, in that the two groups had similar task performance. Simply put, it appears that the brains of children with type 1 diabetes are able to compensate for impairments presumably induced by long-term exposure to high blood sugars. More study is needed to understand this latter point in particular, for example would the pattern normalize if the blood sugars were held to the normal range during the study? Furthermore, more study is needed to understand the broader implications of this work, for example might these or related changes contribute to the increased risk of depression in persons with diabetes? Finally, with the advent of techniques to strengthen brain regions, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, might this type of research help delineate important interventions? Also involved in the study from our Division were Dr. Tansey,Julie Coffey, Joanne Cabbage, Sara Salamati, and Rachel Bisbee.
Dr. Pinnaro, pediatric endocrine fellow, has published her recent research that finds several candidate genes which may modify the phenotype of 22q11.2 syndrome. This genetic syndrome can cause congenital structural heart disease, failure of the parathyroid glands to properly form, and immunodeficiency. Although the effects of the syndrome vary from person to person, the reasons for this variability is unknown. Thus, Dr. Pinnaro set out to understand whether other genetic regions might be the reason. Her findings show that various genes might indeed contribute. She is the lead author on the work which is published in the January 2020 issue of Molecular Genetics & Genomic Medicine. Congratulations to Dr. Pinnaro for the results of her hard work in this area.
It has been a productive fall for Dr. Larson Ode, who has published 5 review articles focused on various endocrine complications of cystic fibrosis. You can find summaries of these works at the following links: one – two – three – four – five. Dr. Larson Ode is a leading expert in the clinical care and clinical research involving persons with cystic fibrosis who have developed diabetes and other endocrine complications. She sees children and adult patients in the cystic fibrosis clinic to help them manage these conditions. On the research side, she coordinates a variety of clinical studies here at Iowa and also at other academic medical centers across the country to better understand these complications. She is also serving as a career and research mentor to several junior endocrinology faculty across the country to further their expertise and research in this important area. Kudos Dr. Larson Ode on your accomplishments!
Dr. Pinnaro, pediatric endocrine fellow, with supervision from pediatric endocrine faculty Dr. Curtis, have devised a simulator that models how pediatric patients develop ketones and how insulin dosing can be applied to prevent ketoacidosis. They have just published an overview of their work in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.
We have entered a new era whereby wearable continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) can provide a reasonable representation of a person’s blood glucose for days on end. These devices have been very useful for persons with diabetes. However, one difficulty has been understanding what glucose levels reported by these devices represent normal. To better addressed this knowledge gap, our own Dr. Tansey helped direct a study assessing CGM data collected from healthy persons without diabetes. The results are now published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The results from this study will be very useful, especially when assessing persons who might be in the process of developing diabetes to determine when their blood glucose levels deviate from normal patterns.
Dr. Larson Ode is the principal investigator and leader of an ongoing multicenter research study aimed at better understanding cystic fibrosis related diabetes. The study is funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (https://www.cff.org/). The name of the study is the “EnVision CF Multicenter Study of Glucose Tolerance in Cystic Fibrosis”, and will be funded at least through August 2021. As the leader of the study, Dr. Larson Ode coordinates studies at the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota, University of Colorado, and Washington University in St Louis.
A recent study published Aug 2019 in the New England Journal of Medicine (abstract link here) has shown that a drug called teplizumab can delay the onset of type 1 diabetes by 2 years on average in persons at risk. Teplizumab is a monoclonal anti-CD3 antibody, and as such interferes with the activation of T cells involved in attacking beta-cells of the pancreas. This is a significant step towards meaningful strategies to prevent type 1 diabetes. Not only are we thrilled at this development, but we are also proud that one of the senior faculty in our Division, Dr. Eva Tsalikian, helped conduct the research and write the article. Other staff in Iowa involved with the study included division faculty Dr. Michael Tansey, and research coordinators Joanne Cabbage & Julie Coffey.