Pilot and Feasibility Grant Award Recipients

Congratulations to our 2020-2021 Diabetes Research Center
Pilot and Feasibility Grant Award Recipients!

The Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center is pleased to announce the results of its tenth round of pilot and feasibility research grants. These grant awards fund innovative pilot projects by early career investigators who are entering the diabetes research field, or established investigators with innovative ideas that focus on a new direction in diabetes research. The goal of the program is to generate data that will enable awardees to compete for peer-reviewed national funding for projects that show exceptional promise.

A total of 21 researchers from across the UI campus submitted meritorious proposals that underwent a comprehensive and competitive two-stage review. Two applicants were selected to receive a catalyst award grant of $50,000 to support their research proposal, with the possibility for a second year of funding, for a total of $100,000 over a two-year period. Two applicants were selected to receive one-year seed grant awards of $5,000 each to support discreet research proposals to obtain data needed to generate essential preliminary data in a diabetes-related project to increase competitive for subsequent extramural funding. 

Catalyst Grant Recipients

Young-Eun Cho, PhD, RN
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing
Project: Extracellular Vesicles in Breastmilk: A Mediator between Obese Mothers and Children

“Breastmilk is beneficial to prevent childhood obesity. However, due to the increasing number of obese mothers, there is a concern whether breastfeeding is still reducing the risk of obesity when mothers are obese. In breastmilk, there are small genes called micro-RNAs encapsulated within vesicles, which could enter the gut of babies where micro-organisms reside and interact with the host. In this study, we will examine whether encapsulated micro-RNAs in the breastmilk of obese mothers affects micro-organism of infants, that may increase the risk of childhood obesity.”

Thomas Rutkowski, PhD
Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Carver College of Medicine
Project: The role of TCA dependent NADPH production in ER homeostasis and susceptibility to NASH

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), or fatty liver with inflammation, is a major complication of obesity and diabetes, and is without effective treatment. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is known to aggravate NASH, and we have found that activity of the TCA cycle links metabolism to ER stress through the production of the redox molecule NADPH. The goal of this project is to test the role of NADPH production by the TCA cycle in conferring sensitivity to NASH. We expect this work will allow the link between obesity and ER stress to be severed, to prevent or treat NASH.”

Seed Grant Recipients

Sukirth M. Ganesan, BDS, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Periodontics, College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics
Project: Salivary Metabolomic Signatures of Patients with Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is an adverse consequence of obesity and increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. MetS affects more than 1/3rd of the US adult population. Several criteria currently exist for the diagnosis of this global pandemic and the process of diagnosing is multifaceted and cumbersome. The goal of this project is to identify biomarkers for MetS in a readily available biofluid, saliva using metabolomics.  We hypothesize that these novel biomarkers may lead to early detection and early interventions ultimately leading to better treatment outcomes in this large segment of the population.”

Anna Stanhewicz, PhD
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Health and Human Physiology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Project: Role of Oxidative Stress in Microvascular Dysfunction Following Gestational Diabetes

“Women with a history of gestational diabetes are at a 2-fold greater risk for the development of cardiovascular disease following pregnancy. While this association between gestational diabetes and elevated lifetime cardiovascular disease risk is clear, and available evidence demonstrates a link between gestational diabetes and subclinical vascular dysfunction in the decade following pregnancy, the mechanisms mediating this persistent dysfunction remain unexamined. Therefore, this project will examine mechanisms of microvascular dysfunction, specifically the role of oxidative stress in this dysfunction, in otherwise healthy women with a recent history of gestational diabetes.”

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