May 2009 eUpdate
BREAKTHROUGH METHOD CREATED TO SWITCH ON/OFF GENES Michael McManus, PhD is UCSF’s resident expert in microRNAs, the so called “dark matter” of the genome that are the tiny “switches” that control most of the genes in the body. Many laboratories are excited about microRNAs because they can be custom-tailored in the lab, where they can silence bad genes that cause human diseases such as diabetes. McManus and his team are getting a better understanding of how these tiny RNAs work so that new drugs can be created to treat and cure diabetes. They have recently developed a powerful method to simultaneously create thousands of custom-tailored microRNAs in a single tube, where a researcher can rapidly select the ones that exhibit the greatest potency against a disease gene. Their method will allow medical researchers across the globe to develop a better understanding of human disease at a much faster rate and at minimal cost. These custom-tailored microRNAs can be introduced into the body as a drug and McManus’s resources will accelerate the pace of drug discovery and create a major impact across many research disciplines. Recently published in the journal Nature Methods , this breakthrough procedure will help researchers to study the genetic basis of diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, HIV and cancer. [news release] [journal article link] [McManus]
FROM STEM CELL TO BETA CELL: RECENT PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS PROGRESS At a recent UCSF stem cell gathering, Diabetes Center Director Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD compared the effort of transforming stem cells to beta cells to a coast-to-coast road trip from San Francisco to New York. According to Dr. Bluestone, “We’re not in New York yet, but we’re getting close. We’re in Newark.” Dr. Bluestone expects that human clinical trials using stem cells in the treatment of type 1 diabetes may start within two to three years. Thanks to support from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and numerous philanthropists and foundations, the UCSF Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine has created one of the largest stem cell research centers in the world. This program was moderated by KQED radio host Dave Iverson and featured five faculty members involved in stem cell research including Dr. Bluestone. [event summary] [UCSF Broad Center]
UCSF SECOND IN NIH RESEARCH FUNDING UCSF jumped to second place among recipients of National Institutes of Health (NIH) research support last year, trailing only Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. According to new figures released in April, UCSF received $444.3 million from research and training grants, fellowships and other awards in 2008. In 2007, UCSF ranked third, behind Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania. Tragically, only 9.6% of new research proposals submitted to the NIH received funding, whereas 23.1% of new proposals were funded a decade ago. Stated retiring UCSF Chancellor Michael Bishop MD, “In light of the extremely challenging funding environment, this broad-based support of UCSF research is testament to the caliber of scientific discovery occurring in each of our schools.” Here at the Diabetes Center, we’re pleased that our visionary team of basic and clinical investigators receives significant research funds from the NIH – and our endocrinology program is ranked fourth in the annual hospital and program ratings of the US NEWS & WORLD REPORT. [news release] [US News & World Report]
TRIALNET NATURAL HISTORY STUDY SCREENING – SATURDAY, JUNE 6TH Does someone in your family have type 1 diabetes? If so, other family members may be at risk for developing diabetes. UCSF is offering a free simple blood test for relatives of people with type 1 diabetes. The test could detect an increased risk for type 1 diabetes up to ten years before symptoms appear. Testing is important because if someone is at increased risk, they may be eligible to join research studies that are exploring ways to prevent and delay type 1 diabetes. The free testing will be offered to relatives who are 1 to 45 years old (some restrictions apply) on Saturday, June 6th at the UCSF Pediatric Clinical Research Center (6th Floor, Room M602, 505 Parnassus Ave, San Francisco). Reservations are required. Please call Marcia Wertz at 415-514-3597, or by email at email@example.com, to schedule a time for the testing. [ TrialNet] [ Subscribe to TrialNet eNewsletter ]
UCSF PHYSICIAN’S RESPONSE TO THE CORN SYRUP VS. SUGAR DEBATE UCSF pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig is frustrated by the food industry's marketing wars involving sugar. As the public learns more about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the food industry is turning back to sucrose (cane or beet sugar), using the marketing tactic that sucrose is "natural" and therefore somehow "healthier.” According to Dr. Lustig, all sugars should be considered unhealthy due to its inherent molecular makeup. Both sucrose and HFCS contains one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose. Although it is a carbohydrate, fructose acts biologically like a fat, and in large doses is toxic to the liver -- the only organ that can process fructose. With greater consumption of fructose, triglycerides, insulin, and blood pressure all increase, obesity worsens, and type 2 diabetes ensues. Furthermore, fructose acts on the brain to block satiety and increase consumption, leading to a vicious cycle of sugar consumption and disease. Tragically, fructose consumption is creating an epidemic of fatty liver requiring drastic intervention: UCSF surgeons performed liver transplants in two obese children whose organs were destroyed by soft drinks. Fortunately, there are two antidotes to fructose: fiber that helps slow the absorption of fructose and exercise that helps burn off fructose before it is metabolized to fat in the liver. Unfortunately, both are in short supply in our current Western lifestyle. Dr. Lustig will present these findings at Digestive Disease Week in Chicago on June 2.
Notes and News
BAY AREA FOUNDATION CREATES NEW ENDOWED CHAIR The Vera M. Long Foundation has continued its legacy of support by creating the Vera M. Long Endowed Chair in Diabetes Research . Diabetes Center researcher Christian Vaisse, MD, PhD was recently appointed to this prestigious chair. Dr. Vaisse, an expert in the identification of genetic defects implicated in metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, joined UCSF in 1999 after competing his training at the University of Paris and Rockefeller University. This Endowed Chair follows the foundation’s earlier gift made in 2003 to name the Vera M. Long Foundation Gene Therapy Suite at the UCSF Islet and Cellular Transplantation Facility . [ Vaisse ]
HANAHAN ELECTED TO NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES Douglas Hanahan, PhD, a faculty member in both the UCSF Diabetes Center and the UCSF Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center, received one of the highest honors a U.S. scientist can receive – membership to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Hanahan, a leader in cancer research, investigates the multi-stage pathways that govern tumor formation and progression to help identify therapies aimed at blocking the growth of blood vessels to tumors, thus halting cancer growth. In type 1 diabetes, Dr. Hanahan has investigated the mechanisms of self tolerance for the insulin-producing beta cells. Congratulations, Dr. Hanahan, on this well-deserved recognition. [ news release ] [ Hanahan ] [ National Academy ]
The Diabetes Center at UCSF is among the premier institutions for clinical trials of emerging therapies in diabetes. Numerous clinical trials in type 1 and 2 diabetes are now underway.
Interested in participating? A sample of our trials currently enrolling patients:
Type 1 Diabetes: Thymoglobulin Intervention Study Seeking volunteers, 12 to 35 years of age, within 100 days of diagnosis [ JDRF story link ]
Type 1 Diabetes: GAD Study Seeking volunteers, 16 to 45 years of age, within 3 months of diagnosis [ more ]
Type 1 Diabetes: Islet Transplantation with Belatacept Seeking volunteers 18 and older, with type 1 diabetes and weighing less than 175 lbs [ more ]
Type 1 Diabetes: Teplizumab (HOKT3Y1 (Ala-Ala)) [Protégé Study] Seeking volunteers, 16 to 35 years of age, within 12 weeks of diagnosis [ more ]
Type 2 Diabetes: Paleolithic-Type Diets and Metabolic Control Seeking volunteers 18 years of age and older with type 2 diabetes [ more ]
Non-Diabetics: Alpha Lipoic Acid and Insulin Resistance Seeking volunteers 20 to 60 years of age [ more ]
Non-Diabetics: Chromium and Insulin Resistance Seeking volunteers 20 to 50 years of age, not exercising regularly, and of normal body weight [ more ]
For more opportunities, visit the Clinical Trials section of our website , or contact Kathleen Fraser, our Clinical Trials Recruitment Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.