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Research Projects

Environmental Toxins and Insulin Resistance
We live in a dirty world.  While the majority of research into the origins of insulin resistance/diabetes has focused on the foods we eat, we increasingly recognize the role the air we breathe may play. We recently published that cigarette smoke causes insulin resistance/diabetes, and we now have evidence that diesel exhaust disrupts metabolic function.
Brown Fat
All people have areas of fat tissue known as “brown fat”—these are pockets of fat that are enriched with mitochondria and are highly metabolically active. By stimulating brown fat with a specific drug, we have found that rodents are protected against diet-induced weight gain and diabetes. We are currently pursuing the relevance and feasibility of such a treatment in humans.  Positive results will yield a highly useful therapy.
Insulin Resistance and Heart Disease
Heart disease is the most lethal disease in the United States and is the leading cause of death among people with insulin resistance/diabetes.  We have recently found that too much insulin alone, such as that seen with insulin resistance/diabetes, disrupts mitochondrial function in heart cells and contributes to heart failure.  We are actively identifying interventions to protect the heart in such conditions.
Type 3 Diabetes
Alzheimer disease is so intimately connected with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes that it is referred to as a type of diabetes itself.  We are exploring the role of insulin in directly increasing brain plaque formation and altering brain mitochondrial function.