According to the latest report of the International Diabetes Federation, the number of people with diabetes worldwide was 463 million in 2019 and is predicted to increase to 700 million by 2045. This poses a challenge to science to better understand diabetes, develop more precise measures for prevention, and optimize treatment for people with diabetes.
At the German Diabetes Center (DDZ), a partner of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), Oana-Patricia Zaharia, MD, and her colleagues investigated new subgroups of diabetes in the German Diabetes Study (GDS). She validated the concept of five subgroups, which refines the previous classification scheme for type 1 and type 2 diabetes forms. In addition, she found a differentiated risk for diabetes complications. For example, people with severe insulin-resistant diabetes have a higher risk of kidney disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, while people with severe insulin-deficient diabetes are more likely to have an increased risk of diabetic neuropathy.
"Dr. Zaharia is committed to precision medicine and has contributed to a more differentiated classification of diabetes through her research. In the future, this could help to individualize treatment for people with diabetes and prevent complications," said Professor Roden. "Her new award-winning project will promote the further development of diabetes research at the DDZ and Düsseldorf University Hospital." The jury of the EASD (European Association for the Study of Diabetes) awarded Dr. Zaharia the Rising Star Award, the EASD's highest award for young researchers, for her work and project. This includes a research grant of 30,000 euros to study the role of adipose tissue distribution in the risk profile of the new diabetes subgroups. The aim of the research grant is to promote innovative research in the field of diabetes.
This award is one of a number of honors for the young scientist – just in July of this year, her doctoral thesis with the same research focus was chosen as the best dissertation of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Düsseldorf. At the 2021 EASD Annual Meeting, she reported on the future goals of her research: "In this new research project, we are trying to refine the new diabetes subgroups based on markers of adipogenesis (formation of fat cells) and adipose tissue distribution. We want to investigate whether people with diabetes can be assigned to specific groups that have a different distribution of adipose tissue and fat deposition in different tissues," said Dr. Zaharia, "because by understanding these complex mechanisms, we want to better understand the role of adipose tissue in the development and progression of diabetes."
Zaharia O.-P. et al: Risk of diabetes-associated diseases in subgroups of patients with recent-onset diabetes: a 5-year follow-up study The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology 2019: 684 – 694. DOI: 10.1016/S2213-8587(19)30187-1