Current Projects Funded by the Amaranth Foundation
Read the descriptions below to learn more about projects currently being funded by the Order of the Amaranth.
Tracey Lynn McLaughlin, MD
Understanding How Gastric Bypass Surgery Reverses Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Type 2 diabetes
Project Title: Role of altered nutrient transit and incretin hormones in glucose lowering after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery
Institution: Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Dates of Award: Funded for 3 Years, 7/1/2019–6/30/2022
Total Grant Amount: $599,988
Project description: Gastric bypass surgery is a procedure in which a portion of the stomach and intestine are removed to induce weight loss. Surprisingly, this procedure also has a significant impact on glucose levels. Currently, gastric bypass is the only known way to reverse T2D in a sustainable and durable manner. Persistent remission of T2D occurs in approximately 85% of people who undergo this procedure. We do not understand exactly how gastric bypass surgery causes this diabetes reversal, although it occurs very shortly after surgery and before significant weight loss. Dr. McLauaghlin’s project will focus on a particular group of patients that get frequent occurrences of very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) following surgery and compare them to patients whose blood sugar does not drop below the normal level after surgery. Her goal is to try to figure out why this group of patients, many of whom had T2D before surgery, now have frequent occurrences of low blood sugar after surgery. She will compare physiologic paramaters between the two groups of patients including secretion and action of insulin, and of other molecules believed to be involved in the resolution of diabetes after surgery. Additionally, Dr. Mclaughlin will attempt to identify novel biological factors that play a role in the resolution of diabetes after surgery.
How this will help people with diabetes: Understanding exactly how gastric bypass surgery can reverse diabetes is critical, especially because this surgery is not appropriate for every patient with T2D. Once we understand exactly how gastric bypass surgery reverses diabetes, it would open the door to the possibility of mimicking the procedure with less invasive treatments or new medications. Ultimately, this could result in the opportunity to improve or even reverse T2D in many more patients.
Laura C. Alonso, PhD
Is Diabetes in Our DNA?
Focus: Type 2 diabetes
Project Title: Type 2 diabetes risk SNPs at the CDKN2AB locus
Institution: University of Massachusetts, Worcester, MA
Dates of Award: Funded for 3 Years, 1/1/2018–12/31/2022
Total Grant Amount: $345,000
Project description: The risk of getting type 2 diabetes is determined, in part, by genetics. Large studies in thousands of people have identified certain genetic factors that increase diabetes risk, but how these genetic differences lead to diabetes is not known. This project sets out to study whether the genetic changes that increase diabetes risk alter human beta cell characteristics, like insulin production, insulin secretion, and beta cell regeneration. The investigators are comparing human beta cells from donors with protective genetic profiles to those with risk-increasing genetic profiles. Results from these studies may help understand what cellular processes are defective in people at risk for diabetes.
How this will help people with diabetes: In the long run, studies such as this will lead to personalized medicine for diabetes prevention and treatment. By understanding how specific genetic variants impact risk for developing type 2 diabetes, doctors may one day be able to identify people and prevent diabetes or tailor treatments around their genetics. Indeed, this is beginning to happen i type 1 diabetes, in which individuals can take genetic risk tests and preemptively take steps to mitigate disease burden.
Greg J. Morton, PhD
Focus: Type 2 diabetes
Project Title: Defining the role of the brain in control of glucose levels
Institution: University of Washington
Dates of Award: 1/1/2020–12/31/2021
Total Grant Amount: $115,000 per year
Project description: A major organ that remains relatively unexplored in regard to its role in Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is the brain. Dr. Morton’s project involves unraveling the role of the brain in control of glucose levels. He has identified a certain region of the brain that alters glucose regulation in response to changes in temperature of the external environment. T2D is characterized by a combination of reduced insulin production and utilization, ultimately resulting in elevated glucose levels. The past twenty years have brought several new classes of therapies for T2D that have collectively reduced complications related to diabetes by improving glucose control. Still, we lack medications that have the ability to reverse the disease. Therefore, it is important that we identify new ways to correct glucose control in people with T2D.
How this will help people with diabetes: If indeed manipulation of this region of the brain can alter insulin and glucose levels, it represents a potential new target for treating people with T2D. Dr. Morton’s project has the potential to make a transformational change by demonstrating a new way in which we might be able to treat people with T2D.