Diabetes research involves faculty from schools and colleges across the Auburn University campus

Published: January 30, 2015
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AUBURN UNIVERSITY – More than 40 Auburn University faculty have research projects related to one of America's most chronic health concerns – diabetes. The research being conducted at Auburn and at other universities will be highlighted at the eighth annual Boshell Research Day Friday, Feb. 13, at the Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.

Auburn University's researchers represent a wide variety of colleges and schools and can be found online at http://www.auburndiabetes.com/team.html. Examples are the College of Veterinary Medicine's Ya-Xiong Tao; the College of Sciences and Mathematics' Chris Easley; and Michael Greene in the College of Human Sciences.

Ya-Xiong Tao is a professor of physiology in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Tao and his team conduct extensive research into receptors in the brain and mutations in proteins that regulate appetite.

"Proteins are essential for everything that happens in our bodies, including regulating metabolism," Tao said. "Sometimes mutations occur in these proteins that would normally regulate your appetite. When this occurs, cells will not allow them 'outside,' and people with these conditions have a difficult time controlling their appetites and are very susceptible to heavy weight gain."

Tao's work was recently featured in "The Endocrine Reviews," which publishes articles dealing with both experimental and clinical endocrinology.

Chris Easley, the Knowles Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, focuses his research on developing techniques to measure hormones in very small sample sizes. Researchers can then apply these techniques to study how the body reacts immediately following a meal, such as in high fructose diets that can contribute to diabetes. Easley's work has been featured in the "Analyst" journal, a leading publication that covers analytical and bioanalytical sciences.

"The Boshell program is definitely a big part of why I came to Auburn. Two members of the program talked to me while I was interviewing for the position, and it helped me make the final decision to come here and be a part of this great program," Easley said.

Michael Greene, an assistant professor of nutrition with the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Hospitality Management in the College of Human Sciences, focuses his research on the role of sugar and fructose-laden diets in the development of obesity and exacerbation of metabolic disease.

Greene supports the emerging theory that artificial sweeteners that use fructose are a much greater contributor to obesity and diabetes than normal sugar, which is the most commonly accepted theory. He also believes it is possible that the type of sugar – glucose versus fructose – and the form, solid versus liquid, may play a role in the development of conditions linked to obesity. Greene hopes that his research will conclusively prove this theory, and help people to stay informed about healthy dieting.

The one-day Boshell Research Day conference, sponsored by The Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research program based in Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine, brings together experts and advocates for diabetes research to present current topics related to diabetes and obesity and its development. Through collaboration and discussion, the researchers will work together to help find a cure.

Robert Judd, chair of the Boshell program and associate professor of pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, said Boshell Research Day began when program member Kevin Huggins suggested it might be beneficial to have an annual meeting so members of the program and researchers outside the university could discuss their research and potential collaborations.

"With that in mind, we had the first Boshell Research Day seven years ago," Judd said. "Since then, we've had an ever increasing turnout, and it's just been great for the program and the work we support."

The researchers are committed in their efforts to discovering the keys of diabetes and obesity. Boshell Research Day is an opportunity for them, and many experts like them from across the United States, to gather and share the knowledge that offers hope to those who are suffering. They hail from diverse backgrounds and professional fields, but are united in their efforts to understand, prevent and treat diabetes and obesity.

The Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Disease Research Program was established in 2001 through an endowment by the Birmingham-based Diabetes Trust Fund in honor of founder Dr. Buris R. Boshell. Dr. Boshell was a 1953 graduate of Harvard Medical School who joined the faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center in 1959 and became the Chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in 1963. During this time, he established the Diabetes Research and Education Hospital and the Boshell Diabetes and Endocrine Center in Birmingham.

For more information about Boshell Research Day and to register for the event, go to http://www.auburndiabetes.com/researchday.html.

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