Optical Spectrometry Technology
While performing research in Louisiana, Dr. Steven Smith, Scientific Director of the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes worked with engineers and physicists to develop an innovative technique called optical spectrometry to study muscle without a biopsy. Only two places in the world have developed the technology including Dr. Smith’s lab. Using this technology, Dr. Smith discovered that muscle metabolism is disturbed in some otherwise healthy young people and that this might be an early sign of the insulin resistance that leads to diabetes.
Bringing gene sequencing into the clinic - MetaboSeq
The DNA revolution changed the way we think about diseases like diabetes and obesity by discovering the genes that cause them. Unfortunately, the use of DNA sequencing technologies has been prohibitively expensive. The newest gene sequencers are solid state like computer chips and can be used to identify the genetic origins of metabolic diseases like childhood diabetes, childhood obesity and certain forms of heart failure. This is important because knowing the gene sequence can in some cases cure diabetes and reverse obesity. In other instances, knowing the gene will lead to new knowledge and ultimately spark innovative new treatments. We aim to embark on a bold new clinical initiative called MetaboSeq where we will use new gene sequencing technologies to diagnose and treat metabolic diseases at the Florida Hospital Diabetes Institute, the Florida Hospital for Children and in other clinics across Florida. This instrumentation will be displayed in a prominent place within the new TRI BioRepository / Laboratory.
Novel Approaches to Speed Metabolism and Improve Health
For years the public and physicians have ignored obesity as simply a lack of willpower, gluttony and slothfulness. We now know that many severely obese patients become obese because they have an inability to burn fat. An expert in metabolism, Dr. Smith identified a hormone that “turns on” fat burning and developed new approaches to turn on fat metabolism to lower blood sugar, lose weight and keep it off. Based on studies performed in mice – but never tested in humans – The Translational Research Institute will test new treatments to improve metabolism. The knowledge gained will help physicians worldwide to help people suffering from obesity and diabetes.
Developing Novel Treatments for Diabetic Heart Disease
The goal of this project is to develop novel new treatments for the aggressive form of heart failure that occurs in patients with diabetes. The first phase will develop MRI methods to measure fat build up in the heart. Phase two would encompass a clinical study to test new treatments. Diabetes produces an aggressive form of congestive heart failure. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is most often not due to blockage in the arteries. By testing new approaches, based on what TRI Researchers already know, we aim to improve the lives and reduce the suffering of patients with this disease.
Research Study focused on unraveling the Origins of Diabetes
Developing new diagnostic tools to unravel sub-types of diabetes will help physicians tailor treatments to the individual while avoiding the current trial and error approach. Dr. Smith discovered there are at least 5 sub-types of diabetes that – at this time – can only be diagnosed with sophisticated technologies and advanced computer based statistical models. The goal of the ORIGINS Study is to develop practical clinical diagnostic tools to identify these sub-types. Although seed funding has been allocated for this project, support is needed to see it through to completion.
Understanding and curing LADA – the other adult diabetes
Diabetes comes in two major categories: Type 1 where the insulin producing cells are destroyed by the immune system and Type 2 where the insulin producing cells die slowly. There is a third form of diabetes in adults caused by immune destruction similar to type 1 in children. This form is called LADA or latent auto-immune diabetes in adults. TRI Scientists believe that these patients can be cured by treating the inflammation – rather than just giving them insulin. The goal of this study would be to test a novel new treatment for LADA and a blood test for this diabetes sub-type that could be used everyday in the clinic.
Endowed chair in diabetes translational research
Goal: $2.5 M
America is facing a shortage of physicians trained in the conduct of clinical-translational research. Physician-scientists are in high demand. Recruiting 1st class nationally and internationally known physician-scientists is very competitive and requires not only premiere physical assets - like those that exist at the TRI - but also discretionary research support. This support comes in many forms but the most prestigious and attractive form to attract ‘star scientists’ is an endowed chair. Endowed chairs allow star physician-scientists to embark on high-risk, high-yield research projects that federal funding agencies like the NIH find too risky. Time and time again entrepreneurial physician-scientists make major discoveries outside the standard NIH funding mechanisms and are attracted to research institutes with these prestigious endowed chairs.
Medical Research is a highly competitive field and top tier researchers are a key element to the Translational Research Institute’s success. To achieve its vision of discovering new treatments, innovating care and curing disease we must be able to recruit and retain the best metabolic disease researchers in the world. Endowed chair funds are used to fund innovative research protocols and ideas that can dramatically impact the delivery of patient care. They also allow researchers to be highly collaborative, seize opportunities to advance science and will ensure the forward progress of research efforts for decades.
Scientific Directors Chair
Scientific leadership is critical to the future development of the Translational Research Institute. Scientific Director’s guide the current research of the Institute but are also focused on cutting edge endeavors that will lead to patient care innovations of the future. A Scientific Directors Chair would exist in perpetuity, enable the Director to fund post doctoral researchers and also fund collaborative global efforts that could directly inform the research efforts of the Translational Research Institute.
Exercise and Metabolism Suite
Translational Research Institute research scientists with expertise in muscle metabolism and exercise have theorized that a significant segment of the population living with diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome are “exercise resistant”. Simply stated, this means that they do not experience the positive effects of exercise (weight loss, cholesterol improvement, heart health). The development of an Exercise and Metabolism Suite would enable our scientists to conduct research-based exercise interventions in combination with the existing abilities of the Translational Research Institute (Calorimetry, Imaging, Clinical Research) and better study the practical applications of exercise on metabolism and diabetes.