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Nemours Biomedical Research

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Diabetes & Obesity

Diabetes and obesity have much in common: they’re both chronic health conditions that are often linked, both are often preventable, and both considered epidemics. Nemours researchers and specialists at our pediatric labs in the Delaware Valley and Florida investigate diabetes, obesity, growth and nutrition from several perspectives — including biological, genetic and behavioral.

We are dedicated to finding answers because every child deserves the best chance to grow into a healthy adult. Learn about our findings and what we’re working on now.

Active Research

At Nemours, each pediatric biomedical research center works closely with clinicians and other professionals to find innovative ways of preventing and treating childhood diseases. One significant area of our work focuses on reversing the rise in diabetes and obesity, and addressing diseases related to growth and nutrition. Some of our significant work is summarized here.

 
Diabetes-Related Research
Statins in Children with Type 1 Diabetes

Many adults take statins (a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs) to reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Researchers at our Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders are wrapping up three interrelated projects that investigate whether statins improve the cardiovascular health of children with type 1 diabetes. One project is a randomized placebo-controlled trial to see if statins can safely reduce abnormal plasma lipids and to study the interrelationship of these abnormal lipids with glucose levels using continuous glucose sensors in young children with type 1 diabetes. Another measures the effect of statins on markers of inflammation in circulating blood cells. The third measures artery damage with novel MRI scanning technology.


Abnormal Blood Sugars and the Brain

It’s well known that high blood sugar levels in children with diabetes can damage the cardiovascular system. Nemours researchers, in collaboration with colleagues at 5 other centers, are examining the effects of diabetes on the brain. They’re using state-of-the-art brain imaging tools and neurocognitive testing in very young children with and without diabetes. The researchers are investigating whether children with abnormal blood sugar levels have differences in brain anatomy and brain function compared with normal children without diabetes.

 
Childhood Obesity Research
Lap Band Surgery in Morbidly Obese Teens

Morbid obesity is more serious than a few extra pounds. It’s a disease that affects every major system in the body. One common treatment for this condition in adults is lap band surgery (laparoscopic gastric banding) – an adjustable band that restricts the upper part of the stomach to help the patient eat less and lose weight. But is the same surgical procedure safe for adolescents, too? Nemours researchers and surgeons in the Delaware Valley are working on a study to find out. They’re also investigating whether having lap band surgery affects other health factors related to obesity and whether it has an effect on a young person’s overall quality of life.


Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)

Childhood obesity raises the risk of developing co-morbidities (serious related diseases). Among them: type 2 diabetes and a liver disease called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which causes inflammation and scarring in the liver and in some cases the need for liver transplantation. Identifying these risks early gives families a chance to make healthy lifestyle changes and, hopefully, reduce the risks of co-morbidity. Under a “cluster grant,” Nemours researchers, information technologists, clinicians and weight management specialists are pursuing an integrated research strategy aimed at assessing obesity, type 2 diabetes and NASH.

The separate, interrelated studies examine:

  • innovative, meaningful use of a patient’s electronic medical records
  • use of integrated information systems to enable a risk-based intervention
  • characterization of novel risk-related biomarkers
  • new and innovative therapies for NASH

Fitness Programs for Children with Family History of Obesity

Can a gym-based fitness program help children stay in better shape?  Working closely with Christiana Hospital and the YMCA, Nemours researchers are piloting a community-based program to explore the benefits of a doctor-designed fitness program. Their focus: children who come from families where obesity is already a factor.

 
Growth & Nutrition Research
Growth Hormone, Aromatase Inhibitors and Idiopathic Short Stature

For adolescent males with severe short stature, puberty greatly limits the amount of time available for catch-up growth. It is the estrogen produced in puberty that ultimately fuses the growth plates of children, even in males. This randomized controlled trial examines the role of aromatase inhibitors — drugs that block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen — alone and in combination with growth hormone (GH) — in enhancing growth in adolescent boys with significant short stature. Sites for the study include Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Santiago, Chile.

In another study, researchers at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando are working to obtain additional data on the safety and outcome of growth hormone therapy in patients utilizing different brands of the hormone. A third study evaluates the optimal management strategies for children receiving the hormone.

Estrogen and Turner Syndrome

Turner Syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects females and is associated with short stature and ovarian failure along with a number of other physical abnormalities. Researchers at Nemours are investigating whether estrogen administered either orally and via skin patches works differently on body composition and metabolism in girls with Turner syndrome. The study also aims to better understand whether titration of the dose of estrogen can be done using sophisticated laboratory assays during treatment.

 
Nutrition-Related Research
Natural Antioxidants and Obesity

Can the natural antioxidants found in fruit and vegetable juice concentrates, combined with nutritional counseling, play a role in obesity in male adolescents? A recent study by Nemours researchers looked at the evidence. Participants, including both lean and overweight boys, were tested over 6 months to see if the antioxidants in the juice might help reduce obesity — and help improve insulin resistance.

Our Centers

Our research into areas related to diabetes, obesity, growth and nutrition is focused in two centers: the Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, and the Center for Integrative Pediatric Obesity Care.

 
Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolic Disorders

Pediatric endocrinology is a specialty dealing with both common and very rare diseases.The Nemours Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, our pediatric endocrinology clinic based in Northeast Florida, is dedicated to clinical care and health education for our patients. At Nemours Children’s Clinic, Jacksonville, the latest technologies and treatments are studied and integrated into clinical care and patient support. We are fortunate to be part of exciting research that is quickly translating into direct benefits for children with diabetes, as well as disorders of puberty and growth.

Type 1 diabetes, the second most common chronic disease in children, is probably the most recognized condition of the pediatric endocrine specialist, yet disorders of growth and puberty also top the list.

Supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), and other internal and external grants, the investigative team within the Center concentrates on studies related to pediatric diabetes and disorders of growth and puberty.

Our Center also collaborates with many of the other Centers within Nemours Biomedical Research and departments throughout Nemours’ health system, to evaluate data and translate developments to improve clinical care. And we are active participants in national and international multicenter collaborative studies.


Clinical Research Experience

The Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders has conducted numerous clinical trials, Phase II-IV, studying effects of hormones, growth, metabolism and diabetes research in both children and young adults. Sponsors have included the National Institutes of Health, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Thrasher Research Fund, Genentech Center for Clinical Research in Endocrinology, and industry.

Recent Pediatric Endocrinology Projects & Faculty Bibliographies »


Patient Demographics

As a regional referral center for pediatric sub-specialty care, Nemours Children's Clinic, Jacksonville, draws from a diverse ethnic and socio-economic population from the southeastern part of the United States and from several foreign countries.


Contact Us
Kim Englert, RN

Phone: (904) 697-3674
Fax: (904) 697-3140
jaxendo@nemours.org

The Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolic Disorders

Nemours Children's Clinic, Jacksonville
807 Children's Way
Jacksonville, FL 32207

 
Center for Integrative Pediatric Obesity Care

The Center for Integrative Pediatric Obesity Care provides a continuum of integrated services designed to prevent, treat and research the epidemic of childhood obesity.

The center:
  • provides community outreach and leads efforts to effect public policy change to create healthier environments for children
  • delivers clinical care to children who are at risk or found to be overweight or obese
  • conducts research to identify promising interventions for the health and care of children at every stage of the care continuum

Current research topics within the center include the link between obesity and cancer, preventing type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) among children who are found to be obese, and reviewing biomarkers to predict which children may benefit most from interventions to prevent obesity.

Pediatric obesity research at Nemours involves a significant amount of collaboration throughout our system, including physicians within our general pediatrics practice, endocrinologists, oncologists, pediatric psychologists, nutritionists, dieticians and health and prevention professionals.


Contact Us
Lloyd Werk, MD, MPH

(407) 650-7715
Nemours Children's Hospital
13535 Nemours Parkway
Orlando, FL 32827

Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP

(302) 651-6040
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE 19803-3607

Publications & Clinical Trials

Publications

Browse a listing of research publications from Nemours researchers related to diabetes, obesity, growth and nutrition.

View Publications »


Current Clinical Trials

Find a clinical trial for your child related to:

View All Clinical Trials »


Is a Clinical Trial Right For Your Child? »

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With active labs in the Delaware Valley and Florida, we’re always seeking new research partners to collaborate with. Join us.
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