The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-8034

Release: May 22, 2000

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Joseph Dillon's M.B. degree is the European equivalent of an American medical degree -- M.D.)

UI researcher receives grant to study hormone's effect on insulin

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa Health Care researcher has received a five-year, $970,000 award from the National Institute on Aging to study the relation between a hormone produced by the adrenal gland and insulin secretion.

Joseph Dillon, M.B., UI assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology in the department of internal medicine and an Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center researcher, will study dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), which has a higher concentration level in the human blood stream than any other hormone.

"Unlike other hormones, DHEAS blood level peaks in the second decade of life then falls continuously with aging," Dillon said. "Lower DHEAS levels are associated with coronary artery disease, obesity and diabetes. Because of these features, it has become a popular nutritional supplement. However, neither the mechanisms of these associations nor DHEAS function in the body are understood."

DHEAS has previously been shown to improve diabetes and control obesity in various animals. Dillon has already found that the hormone stimulates insulin secretion in rats. A lack of functional insulin can cause diabetes. His newly funded project will explore how DHEAS affects insulin-secreting cells from both rodents and humans.

Dillon and his colleagues hope to discover new ways of stimulating insulin secretion.

"The findings may eventually reveal new targets for drug development in diabetes," Dillon said. "We also hope to explore the possible role of falling DHEAS levels in the development of diabetes, obesity and other disorders of aging."

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.