Print Page | Sign In | Join
News & Press: Scientific Advancements

Exciting diabetes and obesity research highlights from Medical City

Tuesday, May 23, 2017   (0 Comments)
Share |

Media Contact:
Deborah Robison
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute
Phone (407) 745-2073

Exciting diabetes and obesity research highlights from Medical City

SBP researchers will speak at world's largest scientific meeting focused on diabetes research, prevention
and care.

Lake Nona, Fla., May 23, 2017 —With more than one-third of adults in the U.S. considered obese,
scientists are searching for new ways to treat obesity and associated health problems such as type 2
diabetes. Four researchers from Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) at Lake
Nona have been invited to present new perspectives and insights at the American Diabetes Association's 77th Scientific Sessions, to be held June 9-13, 2017, in San Diego. The conference is the world’s largest gathering of research experts and clinicians focused on diabetes research, prevention and care. The presentations will inform new treatment strategies for the nearly 30 million people diagnosed with diabetes.

Potential early therapeutic target for diabetes prevention

Obesity often leads to accumulation of fat in muscle and faulty machinery involved in taking up glucose
from a meal to use it for energy, leading to type 2 diabetes. A recent advance from the laboratory of
Daniel P. Kelly, M.D., scientific director of SBP at Lake Nona, may lead to a way to stop this pre-diabetic
state from advancing. Dr. Kelly will present findings on a recently discovered cellular glucose sensor in
muscle that serves as a key connection between insulin resistance and accumulation of fat in muscle,
which occurs in obesity-related diabetes. When the protein is inhibited in skeletal muscle cells, regulatory genes that influence glucose uptake and insulin signaling are enhanced. The team is now validating the pathway as a therapeutic target to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Fatty liver and type 2 diabetes

Peter Crawford, M.D., Ph.D., director of SBP’s Cardiovascular Metabolism Program, is studying the root
causes of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that affects nearly 80 percent of people
with type 2 diabetes. About 5 percent of NAFLD cases advance to liver cirrhosis – a disease
characterized by scarring and fibrosis that could require liver transplant. Dr. Crawford is an expert on how
the liver processes energy derived from food. At the ADA meeting, he will discuss how the interruption of
normal fat metabolism can lead to enhanced scarring. Through ongoing research, he hopes to be able to specifically identify which diabetes patients are at risk of developing advanced liver disease and to
develop therapies that protect against disease progression.

Brain nutrient sensors help maintain energy balance

Diabetes researcher Julio Ayala, Ph.D. wants to understand how specialized regions in the brain control
food intake, energy expenditure and body weight. His ADA presentation will focus on how nutrientsensors that control the balance between energy-consuming and energy-producing processes in almost every cell in our bodies also play a very specific role in the brain. His research shows that hormones, such as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) regulate the activities of these brain nutrient sensors to influence hunger, satiety and ultimately body weight. Defective sensors are implicated in obesity and could be a target for new therapeutic treatments.

Glucose Sensor in Macrophages
Insulin resistance is a key feature of type 2 diabetes. When present, the impairment prevents insulin from getting glucose into muscle where it’s used for energy, and instead causes blood sugars to become elevated. The events that drive the development and progression of insulin resistance are not known. Laszlo Nagy, M.D., Ph.D., director of SBP’s Genomic Control of Metabolism Program, will present new research that suggests that the inflammatory process—and specifically a type of white blood cells called macrophages—are involved. He will present a novel hypothesis on the role of macrophages, defined in Greek as “big eaters”, and identify molecules involved in muscle growth and glucose metabolism. His research aims to reveal cellular interactions that could become new therapeutic targets to treat type 2 diabetes.

# # #

About SBP
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) is an independent nonprofit medical research organization that conducts world-class, collaborative, biological research and translates its discoveries for the benefit of patients. SBP focuses its research on cancer, immunity, neurodegeneration, metabolic disorders and rare children’s diseases. The Institute invests in talent, technology and partnerships to accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries that will have the greatest impact on patients. Recognized for its world-class NCI-designated Cancer Center and the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, SBP employs about 1,100 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at or on Facebook at and on Twitter @SBPdiscovery.

About BioFlorida

BioFlorida represents nearly 6,000 establishments and research organizations in the biopharmaceutical, medical technology and bioagriculture sectors that collectively employ nearly 83,000 Floridians.


Members of the BioFlorida network include emerging and established life science companies, universities, research institutions, hospitals, medical centers, incubators, economic development agencies, investors and service providers.


Email us for a regional Chapter sponsorship.