June 1, 2007

Diabetes research awards honor young investigators’ potential

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This year’s Vanderbilt Scholars in Diabetes are, from left, Elizabeth Tweedie Ables, Ph.D., Bart De Taeye, Ph.D., and Mimi Huizinga, M.D., M.P.H. (photo by Kats Barry)

Diabetes research awards honor young investigators’ potential

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows studying diabetes today may hold the key to stopping or slowing the diabetes epidemic.

The Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center (DRTC), whose mission includes training the next generation of diabetes researchers, has established an annual award to recognize the work of some of the most promising trainees.

At the recent Vanderbilt DRTC Symposium, Jeffrey Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research, presented the second annual Vanderbilt Scholars in Diabetes awards to three talented Vanderbilt trainees who demonstrate potential as future leaders in diabetes research. The recipients received a certificate and a monetary award in recognition of this honor. The program is supported by a donation from Marianne M. Byrd.

Elizabeth Tweedie Ables, Ph.D., who just completed her doctorate in the laboratory of Maureen Gannon, Ph.D., in the Division of Diabetes and Endocrinology, was named the Vanderbilt Scholar in Diabetes in the graduate student category.

Ables' research has demonstrated that a transcription factor called HNF6 affects islet progenitor cells and insulin secretion, findings that may help guide the differentiation of embryonic stem cells into mature beta cells.

The award in the M.D. postdoctoral category was presented to Mimi Huizinga, M.D., M.P.H., a VA Quality Scholar and clinical fellow working with Tom Elasy, M.D., in the Department of Medicine. Huizinga's translational research on how patient attitudes and actions affect diabetes control is leading to the development of new strategies and interventions to help patients better control the condition.

In the Ph.D. postdoctoral category, Bart De Taeye, Ph.D., a research fellow with Douglas Vaughan, M.D., in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, received the award for his work on diabetes and obesity. De Taeye's research shows that plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), which is produced by inflammatory cells, leads to the development of visceral obesity, a risk factor for the metabolic syndrome that often precedes diabetes.

The Vanderbilt DRTC is an interdisciplinary, interdepartmental center that supports investigators performing basic science research, clinical investigation, and translational research, and includes more than 90 investigators in 18 departments and four colleges at Vanderbilt and Meharry Medical School. Alvin Powers, M.D., is director of the Vanderbilt DRTC.