University of South Florida

Nature highlights USF Health-led TEDDY study as a diabetes research milestone
Enteroviruses - Credit: Kateryn Kon

Illustration of enteroviruses | Credit: Kateryn Kon

A 2019 Nature Medicine paper by Kendra Vehik, PhD, MPH, and colleagues at the USF Health Informatics Institute has been recognized as one of 24 key advances in diabetes research since insulin was discovered 100 years ago.

Highlighted this month as part of a Nature Milestones in Diabetes special issue, the 2019 research by Vehik et. al. provided intriguing evidence showing that, in young children with increased genetic risk for type 1 diabetes (T1D), prolonged enterovirus infection plays a role in the autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. Beta cell autoimmunity ultimately leads to the onset of T1D, a serious chronic disease that requires life-long insulin injections to treat.

The USF Health-led work represented a major advance in understanding the links between the virome (all the viruses in the body) and T1D. Dr. Vehik (lead author) and USF Health coauthors Kristian Lynch, PhD, and Health Informatics Institute Director Jeffrey Krischer, PhD, were members of the research team that used sophisticated genomic sequencing technologies to delve deeper into a possible infectious cause for T1D.

Kendra Vehik, PhD

Kendra Vehik, PhD, is a professor of epidemiology at the USF Health Informatics Institute.

The pivotal study was one of many that continue to be generated from The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) consortium, the largest multicenter prospective study of young children with a genetic susceptibility to T1D. Dr. Krischer is the principal investigator overseeing the National Institutes of Health-supported TEDDY project, which aims to identify environmental factors, including diet, infections and psychological stress, that may trigger or protect against autoimmunity and T1D onset.

“Our next step includes pinpointing biological responses — changes in inflammatory markers, metabolites and proteins — that may explain how viral infections can influence or contribute to beta cell autoimmunity and the progression of T1D,” Dr. Vehik said. “We are honored to be counted among the researchers whose many years of cumulative work has greatly improved our understanding of the complexity of diabetes.”

To read more about the scientific achievement (Milestone in Diabetes No. 23), go to:

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