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Podcast: Of Zebrafish and Diabetes Research


Dr. Raghu Mirmira, director of the Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Disease at IU School of Medicine.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and in our latest podcast, IU School of Medicine Associate Dean for Research Mentoring Dr. Aaron E. Carroll is talking to Dr. Raghu Mirmira, director of the Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases at IU School of Medicine, about the different types of diabetes and what’s on the horizon for diabetes research.

The term “diabetes” represents a group of complex metabolic disorders that result in having too much sugar in the blood, which is dangerous (and even deadly) because frequent or ongoing high blood sugar can cause damage to nerves, blood vessels and organs. There are currently three major types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person’s own immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in their pancreas. This leaves their bodies with no or very little ability to produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. There is currently no cure for Type 1 diabetes and people with Type 1 are dependent on injecting insulin into their bodies to stay alive.
  • Type 2 diabetes is chronic and the most common type of diabetes in the United States, with an estimated 30 million Americans having the disease in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Type 2 diabetes, a person’s body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well (also known as insulin resistance). Many people can “cure” their Type 2 diabetes (stop having to take insulin or other medications to treat their disease) by losing weight and living healthier lifestyles, but they will need to be vigilant about making healthy choices to prevent the disease from coming back.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy, and it can cause health problems in both mothers and babies. Women with gestational diabetes manage their blood sugar levels during their pregnancies by taking diabetes medications, following a healthy eating plan and being physically active. After their babies are born, women who had gestational diabetes are at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

In this month’s episode, Carroll and Mirmira discuss how personalizing treatment helps people with diabetes better manage such a complex disorder. And Mirmira explains how research being done at IU School of Medicine and as part of the IU Precision Health Initiative is advancing diabetes management and prevention approaches in Type 2 and gestational diabetes, as well as exploring curative therapies for Type 1 diabetes.

The IU Precision Health Initiative, for which Mirmira leads the diabetes research team, aims to cure and prevent diseases prevalent in Indiana by studying all the factors—such as genetics and lifestyle—that influence a person’s health.

The Healthcare Triage podcast is sponsored by IU School of Medicine and the IU Precision Health Initiative to raise awareness about the diseases in scope for the initiative and IU’s leadership in these areas.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Andrea Zeek

Assistant Director of Research Communications

Andrea works closely with IU School of Medicine researchers, the Executive Associate Dean for Research Affairs, and her colleagues in the Office of Strategic Communications to elevate the school's research reputation.