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Naomi Berrie Award recognizes research on understanding how the brain senses glucose

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NEW YORK, NY (Nov. 17, 2015)–Robert Stanley Sherwin, MD, a professor of endocrinology at the Yale School of Medicine, was presented with the 17th Naomi Berrie Award for his work on understanding how the brain responds to hypoglycemia. Dr. Sherwin was recognized along with other award winners in a ceremony at the Frontiers in Diabetes Conference held at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center last weekend. The prize is Columbia University's top honor for excellence in diabetes research.

"Dr. Sherwin has made valuable contributions to our understanding of diabetes both in the lab and in the clinic." said Rudolph L. Leibel, MD, the Christopher J. Murphy Memorial Professor of Diabetes Research, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, and chair of the award selection committee. "His basic research has uncovered regions of the brain that play a critical role in sensing glucose, and he helped to develop the glucose clamp and insulin pump–techniques that have greatly improved the lives of diabetes patients today."

Dr. Sherwin was an NIH fellow when he published the first peer-reviewed paper that described using the "clamp" technique to measure insulin sensitivity. This test involves injecting insulin into the body to maintain a constant concentration, and tracking the amount of glucose needed to compensate for the increased insulin levels. He used the clamp method to probe how insulin affected glucose uptake in the liver and surrounding tissue.

After his appointment to Yale, Dr. Sherwin led studies on the effectiveness of infusing of limited amounts of insulin through a small pump. This method, called insulin pump therapy, mimics the body's normal insulin release cycles. His research showed that the technique could deliver insulin to diabetic patients more safely than subcutaneous injections. Subsequently, scientists developed the insulin pump devices that are widely used by diabetes patients today.

Dr. Sherwin's lab is now working on teasing out the molecular details of the brain's glucose-sensing mechanisms, and is also using brain-imaging technology to identify the specific regions responsible for glucose counter-regulation and eating behavior. This knowledge may make it possible to develop novel therapies to reduce hypoglycemia risk by fixing defective glucose sensing.

He graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1967. After completing his residency in internal medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, he moved to the National Institutes of Health to undertake a fellowship in metabolism and diabetes. In 1972, he became a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University School of Medicine, where he was appointed to the faculty in 1974. He serves as the director of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, the Diabetes Endocrinology Research Center, and the JDRF Center for the Study of Hypoglycemia at Yale.

The Naomi Berrie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Diabetes Research was established by the Russell Berrie Foundation in 2000. The award promotes and rewards outstanding achievement in the field, while at the same time supporting the careers of promising young diabetes investigators. Each year, the recipient–a senior scientist outside of Columbia who has made major contributions to diabetes research–is given $130,000 to support a two-year research fellowship for a student or research fellow in his or her laboratory.

For more information about the annual Frontiers Conference and a list of past award recipients, visit: http://www.nbdiabetes.org/frontiers.

In addition to the Naomi Berrie award, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) announced the winner of the Berrie Frontiers Fellowship and two 2015 Russell Berrie Foundation Scholars.

Berrie Frontiers Fellowship Awarded

Jorge Postigo, PhD was awarded the 2015 Berrie Frontiers Fellowship. Dr. Postigo is a postdoctoral scientist in the lab of Remi Creusot, PhD, at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. The fellowship will allow Dr. Postigo to work on improving the effectiveness of DNA vaccines for Type 1 Diabetes. DNA vaccines target auto-reactive immune cells, and modify their ability to destroy pancreatic cells. Dr. Postigo's project will help determine the best way to administer DNA vaccines, and test different versions for optimal uptake and therapeutic efficacy.

The Berrie Frontiers Fellowship is given annually to support a junior diabetes investigator at CUMC. The fellowship provides an opportunity for intensive training in a biomedical research laboratory and contributes $130,000 toward the fellow's research program.

Russell Berrie Foundation Scholars in Diabetes Research Named

Michael Kraakman, PhD from New Zealand, and Ze Zheng, MD, PhD from China are the Russell Berrie Foundation Scholars for 2015. They will share a $150,000 grant. The award was established in 2013 to enable international researchers to work for up to two years in laboratories affiliated with the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.

Dr. Kraakman is a postdoctoral scientist working the lab of Domenico Accili, MD at the Diabetes Center. He will investigate how obesity promotes tissue dysfunction that leads to morbidity. While existing research describes how blood cell formation is altered in obesity, Dr. Kraakman's project will look at how bone marrow tissue itself is affected by obesity, which until now has been poorly studied.

Dr. Zheng works in the lab of Ira Tabas, MD, PhD as a postdoctoral research scientist. She will investigate defective insulin signaling in liver cells, and how this failed process links obesity to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Dr. Zheng will investigate Dach1, a gene shown to cause insulin resistance in animal models, has increased expression in obese humans. She will use genomic approaches to identify other genes that Dach1 regulates, and to determine the metabolic consequences when these genes are switched off.

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The Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center opened in 1998 to serve the 1.6 million people with diabetes in the New York area, by combining world-class diabetes research and education programs with family-oriented patient care. Founded with support from the Russell Berrie Foundation and other friends, the center is named in honor of the mother of the late Russell Berrie, founder of RUSS™ Toys. The Center's more than 100 faculty and students conduct basic and clinical research related to the pathogenesis and treatment of all forms of diabetes and its complications. For more information, visit http://www.nbdiabetes.org.

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit cumc.columbia.edu or columbiadoctors.org.

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