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NIH grant targets inflammation in link between obesity and disease
Date:1/24/2012

If you are obese, you are at great risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. But research now underway at Eastern Virginia Medical School could drastically improve your odds of avoiding these serious diseases.

EVMS has secured a major, five-year research grant from the National Institutes of Health that may lead to ways to prevent the development of these diseases linked to obesity. The $1.8 million grant supports a multidisciplinary study of how to safely thwart chronic inflammation; scientists believe that inflammation triggers disease in people who are overweight.

"Inflammation is key to why central 'belly' fat leads to high risks for diabetes, heart disease and maybe even some forms of cancer," says Jerry L. Nadler, MD, director of the EVMS Strelitz Diabetes Center and principal investigator on the grant.

Inflammation is vital to our health. The immune system uses acute inflammation to battle certain infections and heal wounds; it subsides when no longer needed. But chronic inflammation can cause problems. It is this long-term inflammation that Dr. Nadler and his colleagues are targeting.

Obesity now at epidemic levels in the United Sates represents a major public-health challenge for the nation. The risk of having a heart attack triples during obesity. Nearly 80 percent of people who develop type 2 diabetes (often as a result of obesity) also develop heart disease.

To help limit the potentially deadly impacts of these diseases, the scientists are examining a particular chemical pathway in the body involved in chronic inflammation. Obesity activates the protein Interleukin-12 (IL-12) that then signals a gene "switch" called STAT-4 to initiate inflammation.

"As IL-12 goes up, it activates the gene switch, and we think when that is unregulated or not regulated correctly, it leads to excessive inflammation around the blood vessels and in the body. That can lead to heart disease, insulin resistance
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Contact: Doug Gardner
gardneda@ems.edu
757-446-7070
Eastern Virginia Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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