Eastern Virginia Medical School has received a $1.8 million, 5-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to research the link between obesity and chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
The grant supports a multidisciplinary study on how to thwart chronic inflammation, which scientists believe triggers disease in people who are overweight.
The immune system uses acute inflammation to battle certain infections and heal wounds; it subsides when no longer needed. But chronic inflammation can cause problems -- this is the area that Dr. Jerry Nadler and his colleagues at the EVMS Strelitz Diabetes Center are studying.
Obesity triples the risk of heart attack and nearly 80 percent of those who develop Type 2 diabetes (mostly from obesity) develop heart disease.
Researchers already have strong evidence that by controlling STAT-4 (a gene "switch"), they can prevent long-term inflammation and the diseases that follow. By removing the gene in mice, they've created healthy mice. "You can't take out the gene in people, but you can develop drugs that work the same way. We're not preventing obesity. That has to be a lifestyle change. But what we are able to do is help prevent some of the damaging effects," says Nadler.
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