CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
NOTE TO EDITORS: November is National Diabetes Month
UI researchers involved in a number of diabetes studies
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Finding new ways to treat and prevent diabetes and
acquiring a better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for diabetes-related
health complications are keys to research studies being done at the University
of Iowa College of Medicine.
Approximately 16 million people in the United States have diabetes,
but as many as a third of these people do not know they have the disease.
Most people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, which tends to occur after
age 40. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with being overweight and can
be treated with diet, exercise, pills or sometimes insulin.
Type 1 diabetes usually begins at a younger age. People with type 1
diabetes do not produce insulin, which is required to keep blood sugar
levels normal. These people require daily insulin injections for treatment.
Learning more about diabetes through clinical studies and improved recognition
of the disease is critical to better treatment and prevention of the disease.
William Sivitz, M.D., and Robert Bar, M.D., both endocrinologists in
the UI Department of Internal Medicine, are leading a group of investigators
involved in clinical research dealing with patients with type 1 and type
2 diabetes. The studies, conducted at the UI Hospitals and Clinics and
the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City, cover the full spectrum
of problems diabetes patients can encounter.
One of the team's major research efforts is the Veterans Administration/Juvenile
Diabetes Foundation (VA/JDF) Research Center. The program involves a number
of studies looking at the disease at the clinical level--studies done with
patients with diabetes--and the basic sciences level in the laboratory.
"These studies include looking at type 1 and type 2 diabetes while
using different medications to control the blood sugar and determining
how such treatments affect blood circulation," Sivitz said. "We're
also investigating drugs that affect insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion."
Another research project is the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions
and Complications (EDIC), a continuing study of a group of patients who
were enrolled in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT). This
nationwide study, which ended in 1993, had a major impact on diabetes care.
It showed that intensive therapy--more than two injections of insulin a
day or the use of an insulin pump-improves patients' chances of avoiding
long-term complications such as eye, kidney or nerve damage.
"Intensive insulin therapy is designed to lower the blood sugar
level to as close to normal as safely possible," Sivitz said. "The
DCCT showed that the more we lowered the blood sugar the better the outlook
in terms of long-term complications." The UI was one of 29 centers
around the United States and North America to take part in the study.
The researchers are following the 55 Iowa DCCT patients--all now advised
to adhere to an intensive therapy regimen--for 10 years to learn more about
what happens to the disease over this period. The patients receive annual
checkups and undergo comprehensive exams to determine the health of their
cardiovascular and nervous systems, eyes and kidneys.
Other diabetes studies the UI and VA researchers are conducting look
at different types of treatments. These include new forms of insulin and
new oral medications for diabetes. The researchers also are studying ways
to lower cholesterol in diabetes patients.
"We are working on several studies with our colleagues in pediatric
endocrinology on humalog for children," Bar said. "Humalog is
a fast-acting form of insulin that has been available for the past two
years. It's already known to be effective. We're interested in finding
out the best ways to use it."
Patients in the diabetes studies receive free care and medications,
plus relevant diabetes education, nutrition counseling and compensation
for participating in the studies.
For more information on UI diabetes-related clinical research studies,
contact the VA/JDF Diabetes Research Center at (319) 356-4879.