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David M. Nathan, diabetes

Dr. David M. Nathan: Beating Diabetes through Research


December 27, 2007

Dr. David M. Nathan is Director of the General Clinical Research Center and of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Having published over 200 articles, he is an internationally recognized expert in the area of diabetes and its complications. Dr. Nathan received his M.D. from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY. His research has focused on treating Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in ways that prevent long-term complications.

Specifically, Dr. Nathan and his team study and help develop new therapies to normalize glucose (sugar) metabolism in insulin-dependent (Type 1) and non-insulin dependent (Type 2) diabetes mellitus. He and his MGH colleagues also investigate the long-term consequences of such therapy. Intensive treatment regimens for Type 1 diabetes that he has studied include external and implantable pumps, and islet and whole organ transplantation. Dr. Nathan also investigates the use of new pharmacologic agents and hormones in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Nathan was one of the architects of the landmark Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), which revolutionized the treatment of Type 1 diabetes. He also served as Editor for all DCCT publications. Dr. Nathan currently co-chairs the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications Study, the long-term follow-up to the DCCT. He chairs the Diabetes Prevention Program as well, which is the recently completed NIH-funded multi-center trial to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Some of the most groundbreaking work in all of diabetes care has originated in Dr. Nathan's laboratories. A MGH project led by Dr. Denise Faustman and published in July 2001, showed for the first time that diabetic mice could be cured, with permanent normal blood glucose levels. In an earlier and related major breakthrough at MGH, Dr. Joel Habener’s team announced their exciting discovery of stem cells within the pancreatic islets in March 2001 .

This discovery is of vital importance for the cure of long-term Type 1 diabetes (when the natural supply of pancreatic stem cells may have died out) and is also likely to benefit those with Type 2 diabetes. Since stem cells are immature cells that can grow and divide indefinitely, and mature into many cell types, including the beta cells that are injured or destroyed in Type 1 diabetes, a door to regeneration of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas opened. This stem cell research is ongoing; progress often depends on the ability to secure grant money.

Dr. Nathan has also been principal investigator and co-chair of exciting research on diet, exercise and diabetes. Beating DiabetesMuch of the results of that research are summarized in the book, Beating Diabetes (A Harvard Medical School Book), co-authored with Linda Delahanty, a registered dietician. In 2002, the American Diabetes Association presented Dr. Nathan with their Outstanding Physician/Clinician Award. ___________

Last updated: 27-Dec-07

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