JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

March 28, 2001
PHONE: (410)955-1534
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Johns Hopkins Medicine, CEO Feted by Juvenile Diabetes Foundation

– ‘Party Gras’ Gala to be held March 31 at the Hyatt

Johns Hopkins Medicine and Edward D. Miller, M.D., its dean and chief executive officer, will be honored by the Maryland Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on Saturday, March 31, at its spring gala, "Party Gras." Money raised during the "Fund-A-Cure" portion of the evening will go toward a new diabetes research grant honoring Dr. Miller.

The event, to be held at 7 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Inner Harbor, celebrates Hopkins’ strong research and patient care interests in diabetes. For ticket information, call 410-823-0073.

Current research studies at Hopkins include the Diabetes Prevention Program, a community-based program to explore optimal management approaches for diabetes in African-Americans, and ongoing work on glucose sensors and implanted insulin pumps. Basic science studies are investigating the areas of insulin action and factors that cause diabetic kidney disease.

Hopkins researchers also are exploring the possibility of islet cell transplantation through a multidisciplinary research group with expertise in basic science and clinical applications. The plans are to engineer human stem cells into glucose-responsive insulin-producing cells, then transplant them into a patient during surgery. The research team hopes this venture will produce a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Following is a roundup of some recent diabetes news from Hopkins:

Specialization Affects Recommendation of Kidney Failure Treatment – Pediatric kidney specialists are 60 percent more likely than their peers who treat adults to recommend peritoneal dialysis over hemodialysis, report Johns Hopkins Children's Center researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Although most of the approximately 5,000 children and teens living with endstage renal disease (ESRD) in the United States are seen by pediatric nephrologists, many are treated by adult nephrologists. From a national survey of 316 nephrologists nationwide, researchers learned that doctors with a high degree of pediatric experience were much more likely to recommend peritoneal dialysis over its alternative, hemodialysis, for young patients with ESRD. While the relative benefits of peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis have not yet been evaluated under controlled study, anecdotal evidence has led most pediatric nephrologists to recommend peritoneal dialysis as the preferred option for children and adolescents, as a higher quality of life and better growth and school attendance has been reported by pediatricians.

Young, Overweight Men at High Risk for Diabetes – Overweight men as young as 20-something may be at high risk for developing diabetes when they reach middle age, according to results of a Hopkins study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study found that men who were overweight at age 25 -- as well as those who were overweight at 35 and at 45 -- were more than three times as likely to develop diabetes as their thinner counterparts. Those who remained heavy throughout that time period were at highest risk. Being overweight from ages 45 to 49 also was a risk factor. The findings suggested that weight control in early adulthood may be an effective means to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle Factors Fuel High Diabetes Risk in African-American Women – A nine-year study of more than 12,000 middle-aged Americans suggests that at least half of the extra risk for diabetes faced by African-American women is linked to relatively simple and modifiable lifestyle factors. The same was not true for African-American men, according to the study team led by Hopkins investigators. Results of the government-funded epidemiological study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that African-American women are 2.4 times more likely to develop diabetes and African-American men are 1.5 times more likely to develop diabetes than whites. Pre-diabetes high blood pressure also was more frequent among African-Americans than whites. The study indicated that poor diet, high blood pressure, body fat and lack of exercise are accountable for nearly half the risk in women.

Amino Acid Supplements Improve Dialysis Patients’ Health – Amino acid supplements may provide a cost-effective and safe method for improving the nutritional intake of some dialysis patients who are unable to meet their daily protein requirements, a Hopkins study shows. Dialysis patients have low levels of protein in their blood compared to healthy individuals. Patients can’t always increase the level of protein in their diet because of complications of kidney failure: a persistent poor appetite, the need for numerous medications, ongoing inflammation and related medical problems. Yet supplements of amino acids – fundamental components of all proteins – bypass these problems and are a good way to increase proteins in the blood, the authors say, increasing them to normal levels. The study was published in the journal Kidney International.

High Blood Pressure, Medications Increase Diabetes Risk – People with high blood pressure are two and a half times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as those with normal blood pressure, according to a study led by Hopkins researchers. The study also found the risk of diabetes to be 28 percent greater among patients who took beta blockers – medications to reduce heart rate and the heart’s output of blood – than those who took no medication. Contrary to previous studies, however, the risk of diabetes among patients taking diuretics was found to be lower than that of people not taking medication. Results were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

This study does not indicate that all doctors should stop prescribing beta blockers, as they have proven benefits in lowering the risk of cardiac events, the authors said, but they should weigh the benefits against the diabetes risk and monitor patients carefully.

Scientists Identify Natural Chemical that Yields Blinding Blood Vessel Growth – A natural chemical substance the eye calls for backup when it’s lacking oxygen is likely responsible for the blinding blood vessel growth that paralyzes patients with diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, researchers at Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute and Novartis Ltd. Pharmaceuticals report. In studies of laboratory mice, the team identified a medication that specifically blocks the actions of the substance, completely stopping the abnormal vessels from growing. The work verifies earlier studies suggesting the substance, called vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF) is a key culprit in abnormal blood vessel growth. This could also mean that people at risk for blindness associated with macular degeneration or diabetes may one day be able to pop a pill to preserve their vision, the authors say. Results were reported in the American Journal of Pathology.

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