Congratulations to our 2021-2022 Pilot and Feasibility Grant Award Recipients!

The Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center is pleased to announce the results of its eleventh 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 16 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. One applicant was selected to receive a one-year seed grant award of $5,000 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

Jon Resch, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Pharmacology
Project: Genetic dissection of hypothalamic regulators of thermogenic adipose tissue

The paraventricular hypothalamus (PVH) is a crucial mediator of energy balance. Despite considerable efforts to identify the specific PVH neuron subtypes that regulate hunger and satiety, far less attention has been paid to PVH neurons that control metabolism. Thus, the specific PVH neuron subtypes involved in the control of thermogenic adipose tissue remain unknown. To address this gap in knowledge, we aim to identify the molecular signature of PVH neurons that project to the spinal cord or NTS and functionally characterize their effects on thermogenic adipose tissue. These studies will generate preliminary data for future NIH funding related to the neural control of thermogenic adipose tissue and its potential as a therapeutic for obesity and cardiometabolic disease.

Ling Yang, PhD
Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Project: The Role of Pituitary-Hepatic Crosstalk in Obesity-Associated Fatty Liver Disease

Approximately 80% of obese individuals have liver disease, with the most common form being nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Obesity also lowers production of pituitary hormones, which play key roles in maintaining metabolic homeostasis in the liver. At the cellular level, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the major site to make proteins and fats for the cells. In this study, we will investigate the impact of obesity on pituitary endocrine function and its functional output on the pathogenesis of NAFLD through examining the pituitary-liver ER cross talk.

Seed Grant Recipient

Erin Talbert, PhD
Assistant Professor of Health and Human Physiology
Project: Insulin resistance in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer-induced cachexia

Diabetes and a decreased response to insulin are common in patients with new-onset pancreatic cancer, as is the atrophy of skeletal muscles. Atrophy, or decreased skeletal muscle size, is associated with poor outcomes in cancer patients, including shorter survival. In our Seed Grant project, we will test the idea that mice with pancreatic cancer develop decreased sensitivity to insulin before their muscles start to become smaller. Because we know that decreased responsiveness to insulin is associated with muscle atrophy in patients with diabetes, we hope to uncover shared causes for decreased muscle size in diabetic patients and cancer patients and identify new opportunities to preserve muscle size of patients with cancer.

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