What Healthcare Professionals Need to Know About NIDDK Research

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Find out how NIDDK research contributes to your diabetes care.

Diabetes is a major research focus for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which strives to discover the most effective diabetes prevention and treatment strategies. Get answers to questions about the NIDDK research below and see how it contributes to the care you provide to patients with diabetes.

Q: Why is diabetes research important?

A: Research is needed to reduce the prevalence and impact of diabetes, which is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. About 37 million people in the United States have diabetes, a number that continues to rise. 96 million more adults have prediabetes. Diabetes can reduce quality of life, lead to high health care costs and increase the risk of other chronic diseases such as kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

The increasing prevalence of diabetes raises important research questions: what is causing the rising rates of diabetes? What prevention strategies are best suited to reverse these trends? What treatments can help people with prediabetes or diabetes live their best lives?

People with low incomes or from racial and ethnic groups that have historically experienced discrimination are more likely to develop diabetes and related health problems. Research on the social determinants of health is important to inform public policy and improve health care practices for all people with diabetes.

Q: What type of diabetes research does the NIDDK support?

A: The NIDDK supports both basic research, which seeks answers to fundamental questions about the body’s metabolism and microbiome and the causes and progression of diabetes, and clinical research, which uncovers insights that directly translate in disease prevention and treatment strategies.

Although some of the research funding is focused on diabetes, the NIDDK also supports research on related diseases such as obesity and kidney disease. Other research explores topics such as genetics and nutrition that are important to the overall understanding of disease prevention and treatment.

Q: How do patients benefit from NIDDK-supported diabetes research?

A: NIDDK-supported clinical trials have yielded information that improves health outcomes for patients with diabetes. The landmark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study showed that people at high risk for type 2 diabetes may be able to prevent or delay the disease by losing 5-7% of their starting body weight through to lifestyle changes such as eating fewer calories. and increase their physical activity. The DPP has also shown that taking metformin, a safe and effective generic diabetes medication, can help prevent diabetes, although to a lesser degree than lifestyle changes. The PPD Outcome Follow-Up Study continues to uncover effective strategies to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Basic research supported by the NIDDK has led to the development of two new classes of drugs for type 2 diabetes, GLP-1 receptor agonists and SGLT2 inhibitors. Both of these drug classes are now included in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Medical Care Standards Update and have been shown to provide protection against kidney and heart disease for patients with diabetes.

Q: Can I refer diabetic patients to clinical trials?

A: Yes. Your patients who volunteer to participate in a clinical trial can appreciate knowing that they are helping to advance human health for themselves and others. Participation in clinical trials can also provide your patients with standard care or access to experimental treatments.

NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers explains the importance of participating in clinical trials.

Q: What type of patients can I refer to a clinical trial?

A: Many of your patients may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial. A wide range of participants is needed to help researchers determine how race, age, gender, physical size and ability affect disease progression and the effectiveness of treatments.

For example, one study is currently recruiting participants to test a lifestyle-based telehealth intervention for young adults with type 1 diabetes. Another study is testing an app designed to improve glycemic control in young adults with diabetes. type 1. A third study examines the effectiveness of certain diabetes medications in young African Americans with type 2 diabetes. Each study has guidelines and a review committee to ensure the safety of volunteers.

You can help your patients find NIDDK-funded clinical trials that are recruiting patients on ClinicalTrials.gov. You can use the website’s filters to further narrow searches based on age, gender, and study type.

Q: How can healthcare professionals benefit from other NIDDK resources?

A: The NIDDK supports the career development of healthcare professionals through training opportunities for medical students, postdoctoral fellows, physician scientists, young faculty, and established researchers. The NIDDK also participates in projects to promote diversity in health care and research, and provides funding opportunities for small businesses. Other programs and funding opportunities are available through the NIH Pooled Fund.

Healthcare professionals can also follow research developments and implications for clinical practice by subscribing to the Diabetes Discoveries & Practice blog.

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