Since its humble beginnings in 1905 as a two-year medical school, University of Utah Health has always been a trailblazing organization. The institution has gone from securing the first-ever National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant to leading more than 400 such grants annually. Physician-scientists implanted the first artificial heart, and today they are pioneering personalized cardiac treatments. Basic science researchers have gone from creating genetic knockout technologies to innovating precision genome engineering tools.
Pioneering the Future: Stories of Discovery and Innovation is a campaign celebrating today’s scientists at U of U Health who are carrying on a tradition of excellence. Each month, the campaign will feature short stories of high-impact research that is changing our understanding of fundamental biology, health and disease, from heart disease to cancer. The campaign kicks off with Redefining Diabetes, which tells the tales of four paradigm-shifting accomplishments that are unraveling the complexities of the disease, revealing previously unrecognized opportunities for intervention.
These discoveries and many others—52 in total from the past five years—are archived on the Discovery and Innovation at University of Utah Health Digital Collection, created by Eccles Health Sciences Library and published at discovery.med.utah.edu. The collection features a timeline and users can search entries by keyword and author.
The digital collection is intended to raise awareness of the world-class research that is currently being done in the basic sciences at U of U Health. The first 52 entries within the collection were chosen by U of U Health basic science department chairs based on specified criteria. The collection is currently being expanded to include seminal research from the clinical and translational sciences and will be updated on an annual basis.
“The past five years have been an exciting time for the basic sciences and the U community, and this document is a ‘living archive’ of the major discoveries, innovations, advances and contributions made each year,” says Wes Sundquist, chair of the Department of Biochemistry and one of the organizers of the project. His own research team’s pioneering work understanding the mechanisms of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is leading to new approaches to combatting AIDS and is featured in the digital collection and upcoming campaign.
Redefining Diabetes tells the tales of four paradigm-shifting accomplishments that are unraveling the complexities of the disease, revealing previously unrecognized opportunities for intervention. These stories are from Pioneering the Future, a campaign celebrating high-impact discoveries made by today’s scientists at University of Utah Health.
- Rethinking Obesity – Scientists have uncovered a surprising connection between the immune system and weight gain. Abnormalities in the body’s immune system can lead to obesity by affecting which types of bacteria (microbiota) live in the gut.
- The New Cholesterol – Buildup of a type of fat called ceramides could be a better indicator of poor metabolic health than cholesterol. The discovery has led to testing of drug candidates that could prevent or treat diabetes and other metabolic conditions by blocking ceramide production.
- Improved Insulin, Inspired by the Sea – A fast-acting hybrid insulin made from strategic parts of the human and marine snail versions of the hormone could improve the lives of those with diabetes.
- Complex Causes of Type 1 Diabetes – Research shows that when the body abnormally produces Frankenstein-like versions of insulin fused with other proteins, the immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic beta-islet cells, leading to a new understanding of causes of the disease.
Julie Kieferassociate director, Science Communications, University of Utah Health