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New Lab Focuses on Diabetic Research

Dr. Rocco and DPM student Laksha Dutt

Did you know that Samuel Merritt University (SMU) has a research laboratory located on the main floor of the Alta Base Summit Medical Center (ABSMC) Providence building?  The research lab is open to all SMU students to participate and learn basic medical laboratory techniques and the research process.  The goal is to encourage students to learn laboratory techniques, perform literature searches and write summary reports that help formulate new directions of investigation.

Currently, SMU students and faculty using the research lab are focusing on discovering mechanisms that lead to the onset of diabetic complications such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN).  Over 50% of type 2 diabetics develop DPN, and the cause is unknown.  A current hypothesis is that the non-enzymatic attachment of glucose to proteins called glycation leads to protein dysfunction which may explain the diabetic complications of DPN.

In clinical practice two markers of protein glycation, the HbA1c test and the glycated albumin, monitor the degree of glycemic control in diabetic patients over the past 90 days and 20 days respectively.  These glycation assays are measures of the early steps in the overall Maillard Reaction that ultimately leads to the formation of stable advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

Laksha Dutt, DPM studentThe work in the SMU laboratory consists of inducing protein glycation and AGE formation in vitro in selected proteins of clinical interest.  The actions of AGE formation inhibitors such as pyridoxamine and metformin are also under active investigation.  Proteins of interest that are altered by one or more steps in the glycation cascade will be examined within the clinical setting.   An ultimate goal of this research is to find plasma protein markers for DPN in type 2 diabetic patients. 

Techniques currently in use in the laboratory include Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) for AGEs, Western blotting, and a wide range of spectrophotometric techniques for the measurement of glycation and other markers of research interest.  

Research funding has been provided by two Faculty Research Grants and a supplies grant from the Beckman-Coulter Foundation.

Article contributed by Richard M. Rocco, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences

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