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Message from the Director

picture of Mariana Gerschenson

Welcome to the Diabetes Research Center at the University of Hawaiʻi. We are located on the campus of the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) in Kaka‘ako. Our Center is dedicated to the study of pre-diabetes and diabetes and was established in 2018.  We are supported by a 5 year, $11.2 million grant from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)/National Institutes of Health (Grant # P20GM113134) and the University of Hawaii.  The goal of the grant is to develop biomedical infrastructure for basic and clinical research.

Diabetes is a serious, common, and costly disease, and is currently the 7th leading cause of death nationwide and in Hawaii.  It is characterized by high levels of blood glucose, or blood sugar.  In Hawaii, about 442,000 adults, or 41.5% of the adult population, have prediabetes.  Approximately 154,365 people in Hawaii, or 13.1% (1 out of every 9 individuals) of the adult population, have diabetes.  Research at JABSOM has shown that 22.4% of Native Hawaiians are diagnosed with diabetes mellitus; another 15% have been diagnosed with impaired glucose tolerance or pre-diabetic status and are therefore at increased risk of developing the full-blown disease.  Also disproportionately affected are Pacific Islanders and other minority populations.  People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing health complications such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, eye disease, kidney disease and amputation.  Every year an estimated 8,000 people in Hawaii are diagnosed with diabetes.

Research projects in the grant include studying the different ethnic groups in Hawaii and basic science model research to understand pre-diabetes and why diabetes happens.  We are developing new faculty to become independently funded and developing promising future investigations through a pilot program.  We are developing cores in Genomics and Animal Phenotyping.  We are excited about our mission and happy to share our progress with you.

Mariana Gerschenson, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Research
Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology
John A. Burns School of Medicine
University of Hawaii at Manoa

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