OU Medicine researcher earns $2.5 million grant for diabetes research

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Harold Hamm Diabetes Center

An OU Medicine researcher has received a $2.5 million grant to research ways to discover diabetes at an earlier stage. 

Dharambir Sanghera, Ph.D., received the grant from the National Institutes of Health. Her research revolves around understanding how a person’s genetic makeup interacts with lifestyle factors, according to a press release from OU Medicine.

“Diabetes is a dangerous disease,” Sanghera said in the release. “It can cause heart disease, stroke, hypertension, kidney failure, blindness and more. Our intent is to identify biomarkers that can be used to predict diabetes, then we can begin treating individuals who are at the highest risk.”

Sanghera will use a new process called metabolomics, in which a snapshot is made of a person’s metabolomics profile. The research will be combined with their lifestyle factors to see if a pattern is formed, according to the release. 

“With metabolomics, we can bridge the gap between genes and proteins and gain functional readouts of what is going on in our bodies,” Sanghera said in the release. 

Sanghera’s research will create personal profiles for more than 4,600 people, recording what they eat, how much they exercise and what stressors they face, according to the release. In order for the project to be successful, a large number of samples are required to work toward an overall goal. 

“We are tackling this problem in multiple ways — we know that it’s not only genetics that causes diabetes, and it’s not only lifestyle — it’s their interaction, and that’s why it’s complicated,” Sanghera said in the release. “Metabolomics is enabling us to sort it out and find solutions.”

According to the release, Sanghera hopes her research will open doors for diabetes research, and that physicians ordering genetic risk score tests will become a normal part of the process.

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