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insider - College of Medicine News Resource - University of Florida

UF receives $3 million grant to study type 1 diabetes

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Published: November 10th, 2009 • Category: Miscellaneous, Pathology, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine, Pediatrics
Dr. Desmond Schatz, associate chairman of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine and medical director of the UF Diabetes Center of Excellence

Dr. Desmond Schatz, associate chairman of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine and medical director of the UF Diabetes Center of Excellence

The University of Florida is one of 14 nationally recognized diabetes clinical centers selected to participate in the TrialNet research network aimed at preventing or delaying the onset of type 1 diabetes.

The $3 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health provides funding for TrialNet studies at UF and represents a continuation of resources that have supported type 1 diabetes research at UF for more than 20 years.

The TrialNet consortium of 14 centers in the United States and five international centers is funded jointly by the NIH and private diabetes foundations. Through the research network, scientists hope to improve the understanding of the natural history of type 1 diabetes, screen and identify persons at risk and conduct clinical trials to evaluate promising new therapies that prevent, slow or reverse the progression of the disease.

“Involvement in TrialNet is critical because these kinds of studies require participation from hundreds of patients if we are to really understand what treatments are effective,” said Dr. Desmond Schatz, associate chairman of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine and medical director of the UF Diabetes Center of Excellence. “One center cannot recruit enough patients to reach these numbers, so we are successful only if we work together.”

Abigail Neal was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 4.  She is the youngest patient ever to receive an insulin pump at Shands at UF.

Abigail Neal was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 4. At the time, she was the youngest patient to receive an insulin pump at Shands at UF.

Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. It is an autoimmune disease in which the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the immune system, requiring daily insulin replacement and frequent blood sugar checks by patients. Type 1 diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases diagnosed in children in the United States.

UF’s TrialNet investigators include Schatz, Dr. Michael Clare-Salzler, chairman of the department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine; Mark Atkinson, professor of pathology and the American Diabetes Association eminent scholar chair; and Dr. Michael Haller, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology.

As one of the original institutions participating in TrialNet, UF has been a top performing center in the network. TrialNet studies at UF include a vaccination study that aims to preserve insulin production in patients with newly onset diabetes, a study to determine the risk of diabetes for family members of children with type 1 and research into the prevention or delay of diabetes through the administration of insulin.