Growth Failure and Arthritis Caused by Aggrecan Deficiency

Dr. Eirene Alexandrou

There are a number of reasons for growth failure in a child. There are a variety of genetic conditions that cause inherited forms of growth failure. One of these that is being increasingly recognized is aggrecan deficiency. This is a genetic condition that is passed from parent to child in a dominant pattern. To better understand aggrecan deficiency and its impact on growth and bone health, Dr. Eirene Alexandrou studied multliple families. She has now published her findings in the American Journal of Medical Genetics (PubMed link here). This work indicates that aggrecan deficiency is associated with moderate but progressive growth failure. Arthritis was very common among adults with aggrecan deficiency. With increased knowledge and awareness about this condition, the hope is to improve outcomes from earlier detection and treatment.

Dr. Norris Named Interim Co-Director of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center

Dr. Norris

The Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center (FOE-DRC) is located at the University of Iowa. The FOE-DRC was created in 2008 when the Fraternal Order of Eagles pledged a $25 million gift toward diabetes research. Since then, the FOE-DRC (link to FOE-DRC homepage) has grown to include over 100 faculty researchers from across the University. Collectively, these faculty conduct over $30 million of NIH-funded research annually. Major innovations have included studies of mitochondrial function, muscle wasting in diabetes, heart dysfunction in diabetes, diabetes in cystic fibrosis, and use of electromagnetic fields to lower blood sugar. From 2013-2021, the Center was under the stellar leadership of Dr. Dale Abel, who now has been recruited to lead the Department of Internal Medicine at UCLA. While a new permanent FOE-DRC head is being recruited, Dr. Andrew Norris from our Division will serve as interim Co-Director of the FOE-DRC, alongside Dr. Kamal Rahmouni. From 2014-2021, Dr. Norris served as Associate Director of the FOE-DRC. Dr. Norris has been a diabetes researcher for over 2 decades, leading translational studies related to the integrated physiology of diabetes across the lifespan, with recent focus on cystic fibrosis related diabetes and early life determinants of diabetes risk.

Drs. Alexandrou, Pinnaro, & Ramakrishna Pass Boards!

It takes years of training to become a pediatric endocrinologist, requiring at least a decade of studies after college. You could consider this to be the equivalent of completing the “26th grade”. The final step is to pass the Pediatric Endocrinology board exam. We are pleased to report that the three newest doctors in our Division have just passed their Board Exam. Congratulations to Drs. Alexandrou, Pinnaro, & Ramakrishna for becoming Board Certified Pediatric Endocrinologists. Their years of hard work and study have enabled them to become well qualified to diagnose and treat pediatric endocrine conditions.

Benefits of Home Review of Blood-sugar Data in Youth with Type 1 Diabetes

Dr. Catherina Pinnaro

Dr. Catherina Pinnaro and her research team have just published a new report indicating benefits to reviewing diabetes device blood sugar data. The article is entitled “Diabetes Device Downloading: Benefits and Barriers Among Youth with Type 1 Diabetes”, and was just published as a peer reviewed research article in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology (pubmed Link; doi Link). Importantly, the data suggest that blood sugar levels improve when patients/families make insulin plan adjustments based on review of recent blood sugar patterns. Co-authors on the work from our division included Drs. Tansey, Tsalikian, and Norris. Also contributing as the lead author was future pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Benjamin Palmer.

Celebrating 100 Years of Insulin Therapy

Before 1922 type 1 diabetes was a rapidly fatal disease. That changed in the span of a few history-changing months. In the summer of 1921 four scientists at the University of Toronto began studying how to extract insulin from the pancreas and made quick progress. The first injection occurred on January 11, 1922, when an experimental insulin extract was administered to an adolescent who was dying of type 1 diabetes, saving his life. Soon thereafter commercial insulin production began and insulin use became widespread. However, there were many shortcomings of early insulin therapy, which was “regular” insulin extracted from cow and pig pancreases. These insulin preparations did not work in a uniform way from person-to-person. Extreme blood sugar swings were common and complications abounded. Thankfully, in the intervening century numerous improvements to insulin preparations and insulin delivery have been made. Dr. Pinnaro and Dr. Tansey from our division have just published an overview of these improvements in the Journal of Diabetes Mellitus. Their review is entitled “The Evolution of Insulin Administration in Type 1 Diabetes” (click on title for link to the article). Despite these improvements, insulin delivery for patients with type 1 diabetes remains imperfect. Importantly to this end, the article also discusses anticipated improvements that may help future generations of persons with type 1 diabetes. We are thankful for all those who worked to discover and improve insulin therapy, and look forward to future improvements! We thus thank all the diabetes research teams who are working tirelessly to improve diabetes care. This includes the Pediatric Diabetes research team here at the University of Iowa, whose dedication and expertise has helped advance diabetes care through carefully run studies. Finally, to those youth and families affected by type 1 diabetes, know that we look forward to every opportunity to work with you to optimize your insulin delivery and diabetes care. Advances in insulin therapy are happening rapidly. If your diabetes control is not what you think it should be, we would love for you to reach out to us to discuss options.

Dr. Pesce Appointed to the American Thyroid Association’s Board of Directors

Dr. Pesce

The American Thyroid Association (ATA; link) is arguably the leading organization worldwide dedicated to advancing care of persons with thyroid disorders through research, education, and promotion of clinical excellence. Dr. Liuska Pesce, of the pediatric endocrinologists in our division, has now been named to the ATA’s Board of Directors. As such, she will serve to help guide the ATA as they seek to improve thyroid care. Dr. Pesce has long-standing expertise in thyroid disorders and their treatment. She trained in part under the mentorship renowned thyroid-researcher Peter Kopp. Dr. Pesce joined the faculty at the University of Iowa Stead Family Department of Pediatrics in 2008. Here, she has established herself a leading expert in treatment of pediatric thyroid disorders including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroid hormone resistance, and thyroid cancers. We are enthused that she will share her expertise with the ATA.

Dr. Kanner talks at the Healthy LifeStars “Preventing Childhood Obesity” Conference

Dr. Kanner

Today the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy help its 3rd annual Healthy Lifestars Conference. This year’s topic was “Improving Health Outcomes Through Preventing Childhood Obesity”. Our division’s Dr. Kanner spoke at the conference on her area of expertise. Her talk was entitled “The Impact of Adolescent Polycystic Ovary Syndrome on Obesity and the Accompanying Lifestyle and Medicine Management Requirements“. This is one of her areas of clinical expertise. She heads the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital pediatric polycystic ovary syndrome clinic.

Center of Excellence for Care of Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma.

Dr. Pesce

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has been designated a Center of Excellence for Care of patients with Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma. There are only 6 such other centers across the United States. The designation comes from the Pheo Para Alliance, which is a leader in advocacy regarding patients with pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma. Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas are neuroendocrine tumors that secrete adrenaline-like hormones. The tumors can usually be successfully treated, but require careful expert care to avoid severe complications. Our center of excellence represents a multidisciplinary collaboration between pediatric endocrinology, adult endocrinology, oncologists, surgical specialists, and clinical genetics. A special thanks to Dr. Liuska Pesce, who is the pediatric endocrinologist for the Center. To learn more, visit the centers webportal.

University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital Recognized with National Pancreas Foundation Center Designation for Treatment of Pancreatitis

Dr. Larson Ode

We are proud to note that the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital has maintained its recognition by the National Pancreas Foundation as a Center of Excellence for treatment of youth with pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is uncommon in children, but requires expert multidisciplinary care including specialists from gastroenterology, endocrinology, radiology, and surgery. Diabetes is a common complication of recurrent pancreatitis. Pancreatitis-related diabetes is not the same as type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and can have specific treatment considerations. As such, it requires expertise from an experienced pediatric endocrinologist, such as Dr. Katie Larson Ode, who is the lead pediatric endocrinologist who works with the pancreatitis clinic here. You can read more about the designation at the original press release here.

New Research Grant Award: Studying the Mechanisms that Cause Diabetes in Children with Pancreatitis

Dr. Larson Ode

Congratulations to Dr. Katie Larson Ode, who was just named the recipient of a research grant award. The award comes from the joint Minnesota-Iowa Diabetes Research Center (MIDRC) as part of an initiative to foster collaborative diabetes research between the two institutions. For the research project, Dr. Larson Ode has teamed up with Univ of Minnesota physician Dr. Melena Bellin, whom is also a pediatric endocrinologist. A portion of children who develop chronic or recurrent acute pancreatitis will develop diabetes. However, the reasons for this are poorly understood. To better understand why, and hopefully delineate preventative strategies, Drs. Larson Ode and Bellin will enroll children with pancreatitis into a study in which glucose monitors and meal tests will be used to determine how well their pancreases are functioning to produce insulin and control blood sugar.