Director's Message

Dr. Alan SaltielWelcome to the website for the UC San Diego Institute for Diabetes and Metabolic Health! This initiative was kicked off in June, 2016, and is designed to integrate clinical and preclinical education, care and research for the treatment and prevention of diabetes and associated metabolic disorders.

Why diabetes? We are in the midst of an epidemic of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. These separate but related diseases both reflect a disruption of energy metabolism, when the hormone insulin fails to regulate how sugar and other nutrients are stored or used. 

Type 1 diabetes arises in children and adults, and results from autoimmune destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas, so that these patients no longer can manufacture their own insulin, and thus require injections for life. Over time, T1D patients develop complications like kidney, neurological, eye and heart disease, and often gain weight and become resistant to their injections of insulin. 

Type 2 diabetes occurs in adults but also increasingly in children, and arises from resistance to their own insulin, followed by defects in the ability of beta cells to compensate for the increased demand. The major driver of insulin resistance is obesity. T2D also produces the same complications, and tends to worsen over time. End stage patients are usually on insulin therapy, thus resembling T1D patients.

Thus, although they are different diseases with different causes, T1D and T2D are highly related, reflect the same complications, and employ some overlapping therapies. Understanding the fundamentals of energy metabolism is likely to have a major impact in understanding both diseases.

Why metabolic health? We are also in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Obesity is the major driver of T2D, and is also accompanied by other devastating complications, including heart disease, cancer, fatty liver disease, asthma, dementia, psoriasis, osteoarthritis, stroke and hypertension. Understanding how obesity can drive these problems can have a major impact on a number of chronic health problems.

Why now? What better time to focus on the understanding of complex diseases? We now know that the control of metabolism is controlled by numerous organ systems, including brain, liver, muscle, adipose, gut, pancreas and kidney. Breakthroughs emerge at an amazing pace, and there are new insights emerging every day challenging our old views of metabolism. Did you know that some investigators suspect that the brain, not the beta cell, is a primary place where glucose levels are sensed, that there is multi-hormone resistance in obesity, that fat and muscle cells can secrete hormones, that millions of bacteria in the gut may regulate metabolism, that gastric bypass can cure diabetes in some patients, that investigators are close to developing an artificial pancreas for insulin delivery coupled to a glucose sensor, that adult humans might be able to generate heat to lose weight and improve diabetes? These and many other new insights suggest that big developments are right around the corner.

How can you have an impact? Become our partners so we can strive to:

  • Recruit dynamic young independent scientists to work on both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
  • Develop space, allowing us to bring together investigators from different areas to work together, breaking down silos to generate major advances.
  • Acquire technologies, and get these latest modern tools in the hands of able investigators.
  • Deeply engage, to create a community of scholars from across the La Jolla region with common interests, but different perspectives, who will share ideas and come together to focus on these devastating diseases.
IDMH is an example of the collaborative approach that typifies the culture of UC San Diego. The Institute’s mission is ambitious, broad and diverse, and will not only build upon existing strengths and talents, but seek to create new ones across campus and beyond. We hope you will enjoy perusing the site, and learning about our different research, clinical and educational activities.

Visit Dr. Saltiel's Laboratory Website