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Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are epidemic health care problems that have both lifestyle (diet, inactivity) and genetic (familial risk) components. Metabolic syndrome is the presence of multiple risk factors for cardiometabolic disease that often leads to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Greater than 85 percent of obese adolescents will become obese adults, contributing to escalating adult disease rates. We are working to identify genetic and molecular causes of childhood and adolescent obesity, and design interventions to reverse unhealthy weight gain in the nation’s children. The overarching hypothesis of our research is that genetic variations driving obesity will be more easily identified in younger populations that have fewer confounding disease co-morbidities than older, sicker populations. Furthermore, the early identification of individuals at higher risk for obesity and diabetes due to their genetics and lifestyles can lead to better prevention and treatment strategies.

A series of population-based interventions for inactivity, obesity, and type 2 diabetes in children and young adults is underway within the department. Recently, a systems biology initiative for obesity was funded by the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation. Monica Hubal, PhD, a faculty member with dual backgrounds in exercise physiology and genetic medicine, is working with Evan Nadler, MD, who performs bariatric surgery on extremely obese adolescents. Their projects include identification of genetic variations associated with successful health improvements after surgery and understanding the physiological changes that occur across organs (muscle, liver and fat) after surgery. Dr. Nadler also heads up the scientific team for the Obesity Institute at Children's National Health System, a multidisciplinary initiative with the goal of combating obesity through informed and comprehensive prevention and treatment programs.

Eric Hoffman, PhD, continues a series of NIH funded studies of genetic predispositions to metabolic syndrome and endophenotypes of type 2 diabetes in children and young adults. The AIMM Young Study, a study of metabolic syndrome in African American Washington, DC, college students, has been highlighted by the NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities P20 Centers, with impressive recruitment. The AIMM Young study goal is to identify young people who are at risk for metabolic syndrome, with the intention of developing intervention programs to foster lifestyle changes that lessen their chances of developing metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Hoffman and Joseph M. Devaney, PhD, also continue work on the FAMUSS study, a multi-institutional cooperative study of young adults (average age 24 years), that seeks to identify genetic variations responsible for effects of strength training on muscle, bone, and fat mass. The FAMUSS study uses MRI, muscle strength testing, and response of these variables to 12 weeks of progressive supervised resistance training. The FAMUSS study has resulted in >16 peer reviewed publications, including recent findings of genetic associations between variations in BMP2, INSIG2 and PPARA with muscle and fat mass.

Faculty with interests in type 2 diabetes and obesity include:

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